I would like to be able to paint it gold
Looks like cardboard that has been sealed and then spray painted gold. You need to seal it with a layer of paint that you let dry or the cardboard just keeps soaking up the wet paint and never gets a good color.
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Don't ever wear anything spray painted, the smell will give you and anyone with you a headache. cardboard and gold foil will get a nice look, you could try to make one from cloth also.
Cardboard or sheet acetate with gold foil over it. Both available at better craft stores.
+1. Besides, it's a kid's book; what kind of crown do _you_ think Max would have found/made for himself?
Burger King do almost what you want....
How pemanent is it to be ? Thin aluminium might work, if you have the cushioning of the furry bit.