Notorious BIG’s crown & Tupac’s Love Letters on auction

“It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine, Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine, Hangin’ pictures on my wall,Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl,” the lines to one of his most famous tracks as Biggie Smalls. Now his crown will be up for auction courtesy of Sothebys.

Sotheby’s has announced a new auction which celebrates the History & Cultural Impact of Hip Hop featuring fine art, artifacts, memorabilia, photography, fashion and jewelry. This is the first-ever dedicated to Hip Hop from 11 to 15 September in New York, US.

Cassandra Hatton, Vice President & Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Books & Manuscripts Department commented: “Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s, Hip Hop has become a global cultural force, whose massive influence continues to shape all realms of culture: music, fashion, design, art, film, social attitudes, language, and more. This sale is a celebration of the origins and early eras of that influence.”

Leading the auction is the crown worn by Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie/Biggie Smalls and Notorious B.I.G.) during the 1997 ‘K.O.N.Y. (King of New York)’ portrait session, the rapper’s last recorded photoshoot before he was killed in Los Angeles three days later. The crown, which was recently showcased in the groundbreaking book and exhibition Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop by Vikki Tobak, is on offer by the photographer Barron Claiborne, whose possession it has remained since the photoshoot. Included in the lot are three specially sized (36 x 40″) prints – all 1/1 printed and signed by Claiborne – of the iconic ‘K.O.N.Y’ photograph, the 10th anniversary K.O.N.Y. photograph, and the contact sheet (estimate $200 000/300,000). The interior of the crown bears the inscription “Crown from Biggie KONY Shot NYC 3-6-97” and is signed by both Biggie and Claiborne.

Crown Worn by Notorious B.I.G. Credit: ‘Courtesy Sotheby’s’

Tupac Shakur’s teenage love letters

Another auction highlight is a deeply personal archive of 22 autographed love letters written by a 16-year-old Tupac Shakur to Kathy Loy, a high school sweetheart and fellow student at the Baltimore School for the Arts (estimate $60 000/80,000). A total of 42 pages on 24 sheets of paper and one greeting card, the letters are signed by Shakur with a variety of terms of endearment: “Love, Tupac”, “4 Eternity, Tupac”, “With Passion, Tupac”, “Forever Yours, Tupac” and “With All My Heart, Tupac”.

Kathy Loy Yearbook Signed by Tupac Shakur Credit: ‘Courtesy Sotheby’s’

Written when Shakur was enrolled in the 10th grade theater class and Loy was enrolled in the 11th grade theater class, the letters range in date from late March 1987 to April 1988 and chronicle the approximately two-month long romance between the pair – spanning their first meeting, to their eventual break-up, and a letter of regret sent a year later.

For example, in one letter he writes “I love you now more than ever, want you now more than before, No one compares to you, the one that I adore…”. The letters capture a whirlwind romance between the couple.

Tupac Shakur, High School Love Letter Credit: ‘Courtesy Sotheby’s’

The letters also illustrate Shakur’s close friendship with fellow student Jada Pinkett, who he refers to in one letter writing, “Jada told me she can see how much I love you…’, as well as provide a small glimpse into his home life with mentions of his mother working late nights and his responsibilities to help care for his cousins.

Tupac Shakur, High School Love Letters to Kathy Loy Credit: ‘Courtesy Sotheby’s’

For more information on how to participate in the auction, contact:


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