The Notorious B.I.G. wore a plastic crown price tagged at $6 for his last photo shoot but it was auctioned for $594,750 at Sotheby’s inaugural Hip Hop auction.
“This crown is a novelty item; I bought it at a place on Broadway called Gordon’s,” said Barron Claiborne, a 57-year-old photographer who lives in Brooklyn.
Clairborne was the cameraman for the legendary rapper’s last magazine cover shoot for Rap Pages in 1997. “Without Biggie, the crown would not be worth [six figures]. I only paid six bucks for it.”
Clairborne walked away six-figures richer after auctioning a pair of prints from the session, plus a photo contact sheet. The additional items were estimated to be worth about $200,000 to $300,000. “Some people have told me that it’s too low,” Claiborne said. “That shows you how strong the symbol really is. I always thought Biggie was a king.”
He earned way more at the auction than he did for the original shoot. “I’m not sure that I even got paid for it,” he said. “I was mostly shooting celebrities and reportage. I did this because I liked taking pictures of Biggie. The time before, I photographed him in a white suit — instead of the tracksuit that most rappers were wearing back in 1997.”
Ironically, the royal-themed shoot almost didn’t happen because Diddy thought it made Notorious B.I.G look like Burger King. “He said it would make Biggie look like Burger King,” recalled Claiborne. “But Biggie didn’t listen. He wore it anyway. And nobody’s ever told me that they look at the photo and think the crown is plastic.”