The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 46, November 17, 2019, Article 28


John Lumea of San Francisco runs The Emperor's Bridge Campaign, which promotes the memory of the beloved eccentric Joshua Norton, who declared himself "Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico". In his email CAMPAIGN NOTE No. 63 on November 4th, 2019, he announced a numismatic discovery. -Editor

Emperor Norton note

Emperor's Bridge Campaign in Coverage of Newly "Discovered" Emperor Norton Note In a fabulous good-luck story, our good friend, Emperor Norton's Boozeland co-owner Kevin DeMattia, was able to buy — for a thousand bucks — what now is regarded as one of the finest examples of one of the 40 Emperor Norton treasury notes known to exist: a note that, on the collectors' market, would fetch $12,000–$15,000.

Some backstory...

It was on 6 February 2018 — the day before the Campaign's big February 7th splash for the Emperor's 200th birthday, at the Mechanics' Institute — an event attended by Joe Rosato of NBC Bay Area — that Kevin first messaged me about an out-of-the-blue offer he had received from someone in Oregon, to sell him an Emperor Norton note from February 1878.

Over the last few years, various numismatists — experts in the history and collecting of rare currency and coin — have flagged my research and writing about Emperor Norton notes, in their newsletters and auction listings.* So, the day after the bicentennial celebration, I put out feelers among my contacts in the numismatics community.

Donald Kagin of Kagin's, Inc. — just across the Golden Gate, in Tiburon, Calif. — is one of the country's most respected historians and dealers in rare currency. He specializes in Western Americana and has carved out an expertise in Norton notes.

On 20 February 2016, I introduced Kevin and Don via email — and the rest, as they say....

It's great to see a happy ending to this story. I connected John with Don Kagin back in April 2018 when this note first surfaced. I'm happy to learn it turned out to be genuine. Here's an excerpt from one of the media stories about it. -Editor

True Norton-handled items are exceedingly rare and valuable, as they're more than a hundred years old and so very few survived the 1906 earthquake and fires. But a priceless Norton relic has just turned up, and you can go see it right now, as NBC Bay Area reports that the bar Emperor Norton's Boozeland on Larkin has acquired an authentic Emperor Norton promissory note, which has been authenticated as legit, and appraised as being worth $15,000.

Emperor Norton, of course, handed out the notes as his own handmade currency in the 1860s and 70s. With a face value of 50 cents on the day the Emperor signed them, these notes now fetch five figures among collectors.

"I decided to buy it sight unseen and sans authentication," Emperor Norton's Boozeland owner Kevin DeMattia told NBC Bay Area. DeMattia has all manner of Emperor Norton ephemera on display at his bar, from murals to sculptures to ‘Don't Call it Frisco' signs, but the only Emperor Norton currency he's ever had was a replica. "They were printed by the thousands, but then the Great Fire came through and burned everything, so they went from everyone had one to no one had one," he said.

The bill's authenticity has been verified, thanks to the efforts of the Emperor's Bridge Campaign that has long sought to add "Emperor Norton Bridge" as a name for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. "Kevin first messaged me about an out-of-the-blue offer to purchase an Emperor Norton note from February 1878," campaign president John Lumea writes in the Facebook post above. "I put out feelers among my contacts in the numismatics community."

(By ‘numismatics' he means the study of currency from centuries past, and the expert brought in was Kagin's Inc. of Tiburon.)

Appraiser Don Kagin decreed that it was authentic, noting it was hand-numbered as 2573, is the fortieth known genuine surviving note. He valued it between $12,000 and $15,000, though its 1878 face value is but 50 cents.

Though a party celebrating the note already happened last weekend, you can pop in and check the note out at Emperor Norton's Boozeland, 510 Larkin Street (at Turk Street) from Noon to 2 a.m. every day.

To read the complete article, see:
Emperor Norton Bar Buys Emperor Norton Bond, Which Is Worth $15,000 (

Be sure to watch the excellent video chronicling the entire authentication process. -Editor

Emperor Norton note in frame
Don KAgin examining framed Emperor Norton note

"Honey, I'm doing some numismatic research, I'll be at the bar at Emperor Norton's Boozeland." -Editor

To watch the complete video, see:
San Francisco Bar Owner Discovers 141-Year-Old Bond Issued by Emperor Joshua Norton (


CURIOUS CURRENCY— The new 2nd edition of Robert D. Leonard Jr.'s Curious Currency: The Story of Money From the Stone Age to the Internet Age is now available, with updated information on e-gold and PayPal, proximity payments, cryptocurrencies, and more. Winner of the Numismatic Literary Guild's "Best Specialized Book, World Coins" award. Order your copy for $16.95 at , or call 1-800-546-2995.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2012 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster