Cash in, cash out: Pharrell Williams is selling a massive stockpile of personal belongings, including the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak skeletonized perpetual calendar he wore in his 2004 “Frontin'” video and a Lorraine Schwartz 18-karat yellow-gold pinkie ring set with a 23.7-carat sapphire. And that is just the beginning. The auction, dubbed “Son of a Pharaoh,” officially launches the latest venture from the multi-multi-hyphenate superstar: Joopiter, a new auction site aimed at a crowd that appreciates a diamond-encrusted NERD belt buckle but expects the type of white -glove service found at old-guard establishments such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
At first, the site will exclusively sell items from high-profile curators (mostly Pharrell’s friends, who seem to consist of a who’s-who of the singularly cool), but there’s more—apparently much more—to come from the Neptunes coproducer. “It’s insane the stuff that I’m moving” for the Son of a Pharaoh auction, he says, but he still has “probably three or four times that in terms of what I’m going to let go. So it’s going to get crazy.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
At what point in your life did you begin to consider yourself a collector?
I never woke up one day and decided that I was going to be a collector. I think I was very inspired and very aspirational-minded, and the things that I thought were really nice, that were above the standard and raised the bar, were the things that caught my eye, and what I worked really hard to be able to afford. Before I knew it, I had amassed a bit of a treasure, a bit of a trove. At a certain point, it became really undeniable that I, too, was not only a collector but a curator.
Why did you feel it was time to let go of so many of your personal items? Why now?
I’ve just amassed so many things over the past 30 years—I just looked the other day, and August 25, 1992, was like the first thing that I ever released, and it went double platinum. And I get the call from the accountant to say, “Man, you’re archiving so many things at this point. Are you ever going to use them?” I’ve held on to these things because I think they’ve continued to grow in value. The investment just tripled, if not more, but what am I doing? I’m not using this stuff. I’m not wearing this stuff. I’m not driving these things.
What were the hardest pieces to part with?
The 26-carat Asscher-cut yellow diamond and the 20-plus-carat Asscher-cut white diamond. I was like, “Whoa, am I really doing this?” But you know what? It’s time.
When it comes to your jewelry, how deep do you dive on stone quality?
Lorraine Schwartz taught me so much about stones and quality, the clarity and the color and making sure the stones are cut correctly so that they’re not too heavy or they’re not too wide. I learned a whole lot from Jacob Arabo, also known as Jacob the Jeweler—he taught me a great deal as well. All of that went into a lot of these pieces. These were all my designs, by the way.
Why create your own auction platform? Why not use the heritage houses?
I started thinking about where I would want to sell, and what I would want to sell. It’s such a broad range, everything from the BBC [Billionaire Boys Club] and Ice cream and Bathing Ape prototypes to jewelry that I’ve created. It’s a lot of stuff and it’s super pricey. There are so many different sites and auction houses that we would have to go to—there wasn’t, like, a one-stop-shop. We love and respect the auction houses that have been here for hundreds of years, but they also come with a cultural imprint that’s very different.
How will Jupiter be different?
We still need to have that high-touch service and be able to bring on any kind of article or item of value and make it welcome to everyone and make it feel very inclusive. And that’s not just in makeup but also presentation. I just started thinking, “How do I create a product or a site destination that feels new, something that feels fresh?” It takes everything that you would expect from an auction house but elevates it and spreads it wider.
Describe the presentation.
We’re going to have the folks that are doing the auctions come on and do 20- to 30-minute pieces on the items, telling their story. From my point of view it’s like, if you go to a high-end thrift store and buy a pair of jeans from 1949, somebody tells you that they’re from 1949 and they’ll probably cost you six or seven hundred bucks, right ? But if I show you a photo of James Dean wearing those same jeans, all of a sudden they’re $2,500. Why is that? Because we enjoy stories.
Will you ever open up the platform to a wider audience of collectors, not just your personal roster of curators?
The second phase I can’t get into with you right now, and for the first year I can’t do what you talked about—hint, hint. But you will be able to come to the site and be able to get merch. So, you might not be able to afford the necklace, but maybe you can afford the T-shirt or the hoodie that has the photo of the item that you’re thinking about. We’ve made it a little something for everyone in terms of democracy.