The Imperial Currency of NORTON I

Kevin DeMattia, co-owner of the Emperor Norton's Boozeland, bought the note from an Oregon man who contacted the Norton-themed bar via Facebook and offered to sell it.

"I decided to buy it sight unseen and sans authentication," laughed DeMattia who collects Norton memorabilia to display in the bar.

The currency, which the self-proclaimed emperor printed and issued by the thousands during his reign as the city's most eclectic citizen in the 1800s, has become the holy grail for Norton collectors -- with genuine, hand-signed and dated notes fetching more than $10,000.

"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," DeMattia said. "Now it's one of the rarest currencies." [...]

[Vintage currency expert Don] Kagin said the note, hand-numbered 2573, is the fortieth of known notes that survived Norton's time. The note promises to repay the recipient 50 cents in 1880 -- with interest of five cents. Norton himself died on January 8th, 1880 escaping the note's due date. The promissory bonds, which he had printed by San Francisco printers were often honored by the restaurants, shopkeepers and individuals he encountered during his daily excursions through the city.

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