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The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 14, April 5, 2020, Article 21

THE 1953 EMPEROR NORTON MEDALS

1953 Emperor Norton gold medal obverse 1953 Emperor Norton gold medal reverse

John Lumea of the Emperor Norton Trust writes:

"I have a question about the 1953 Emperor Norton gold medallion shown in a 2014 E-Sylum item.

"My guess is that the medallion — commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle and struck by Shreve & Co. jewelers — is connected in some way to the Chronicle's Emperor Norton Treasure Hunt. Every year for a decade, 1953 to 1962, the paper for several weeks published clues to the location of a gold medallion buried somewhere in the city. The lucky reader who found the medallion could bring it to the Chronicle's offices and receive 1,000 silver dollars — sometimes more, depending on the year.

"I long have thought that the item depicted in The E-Sylum was one of the buried medallions. But, it seems this is not so.

"I just wrote this up in a Facebook post for The Emperor Norton Trust, titled "An Artifactual Conundrum of the Emperor Norton Treasure Hunt."

With permission, we're republishing John's post here. -Editor

AN ARTIFACTUAL CONUNDRUM OF THE EMPEROR NORTON TREASURE HUNT

Emperor Norton star-shaped medallion obverse Yesterday, in this space, we presented a photograph (which we've shown before) of the front of a medallion which appears to have been produced in connection with the San Francisco Chronicle's Emperor Norton Treasure Hunt of 1953-62. This photo and a companion photo of the back of the medallion — first two images below — are in the "Sculptures & Fabrications" gallery of our digital Archive of Emperor Norton in Art, Music & Film at
http://emperornortontrust.org/arena/visual-arts/sculptures-and-fabrications .

The star-shaped medallion, dated 1953, was made by Shreve & Co. jewelers, and we long have supposed it to be the first of the medallions buried for the Hunt.

But, a review of a photo gallery that the Chronicle published in 2018 for an historical web feature on the Hunt reveals something different.

:: :: ::

As you can see in the attached photos from the Chronicle's gallery (starting with the third image in the series below), the *buried* star-shaped medallions — also made by Shreve and placed in special wood-and-glass display boxes — are fairly large. Based on the photographs, the diameter is as much as 8 inches or more — text on each medallion calls it a "plaque."

The buried medallions feature a vignette of the Emperor full-length, hand on his sword, Bummer and Lazarus at his feet.

:: :: ::

The text and the artwork on the medallion shown in our Archive is completely different. It features the "Norton head" that appeared in the Chronicle's promotions of the Hunt. The text — including the phrases "Grand Order of the West" and "Lady in Waiting" — is somewhat inscrutable and doesn't reference the Hunt at all.

:: :: ::

Relative to the buried medallions, whose stars have 19 points, the medallion in our Archive — which has 16 points — appears to be a smaller, "handheld" piece.

An educated guess: One photograph in the Chronicle's gallery indicates that the paper threw a special "Emperor Norton dinner" in honor of the winner of the Hunt. Perhaps, on this occasion, the winner was given the smaller medallion as a keepsake.

Or, perhaps, induction into the "Grand Order of the West" was an honor the Chronicle accorded to others, but, the paper used this dinner as the occasion to present the medallion to honorees.

Or the Chronicle had a Grand Order of the West award that had no connection whatsoever to the Emperor Norton Treasure Hunt or to any Hunt-related dinner — the paper simply branded the award with Norton iconography.

Anybody have intel?

Emperor Norton star-shaped medallion box

Emperor Norton star-shaped medallion silver dollars

Great photos - check out the full photo gallery with the Chronicle article linked below. But it pains my numismatic heart to see the silver dollars being dumped from a bag. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
AN ARTIFACTUAL CONUNDRUM OF THE EMPEROR NORTON TREASURE HUNT (https://www.facebook.com/EmperorNortonTrust/posts/2630056607273255)

To read the San Francisco Chronicle article, see:
When the Emperor Norton Treasure Hunt turned San Francisco upside down (https://www.sfchronicle.com/thetake/article/When-the-Emperor-Norton-Treasure-Hunt-turned-San-12886044.php)

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
THE 1953 EMPEROR NORTON GOLD MEDAL (https://www.coinbooks.org/club_nbs_esylum_v17n50.html#article11)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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