Joshua Norton migrated from South Africa and settled in San Francisco in around 1850. He ventured into real estate and made a lot of money. When he tried to capitalise on the Peruvian Rice market, he suffered huge losses. He was never seen after that until he returned on 17th September 1859, when he proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States. Suddenly he started getting a lot of support and almost 20,000 people attended his funeral in 1880.
People from San Francisco gave a royal treatment to Joshua. He ate in restaurants for free as the guest of owners. Restaurant owners later wanted Joshua’s approval and attention, due to his growing fame. The city also offered an annual sum for the Emperor. Norton also issued bonds, collected taxes, and issued currency notes which were printed for free by local printers. In the last 10 years of his life, Norton had issued nine types of notes bearing denominations from 50 cents to $100.
A 50-cent note of The Imperial Government of Norton I, graded Very Fine 30 by PMG, will be offered by Kagin’s on 21st September during West Coast auction at Santa Clara Coin Expo in California for an estimated value of $20,000 to $30,000. The note was printed by Chas. Murdoch & Company. Date and signature were written by hand by Emperor Norton. The promise text reads that the owner of the note will be paid 50 cents in 1880 with interest at 5 Percent per annum.
Image Courtesy: Kagin’s