Not so Superior Counterfeiters

A paper quarter issued by the City of Superior, Wisconsin on August 18, 1933. Reduced cash
flow during the Great Depression caused Superior to issue scrip from 1933 to 1939.

The City of Superior issued Depression Scrip for the longest period of any issuing authority in Wisconsin. The city issued its first scrip in August 1933 and last in April 1939. During that time, over $2,000,000.00 in scrip was issued in denominations from $.25 to $10.00.

Like many municipalities around the country, the city´s finances were crippled by two effects of the Great Depression: a dramatic increase in defaults on property taxes and the city´s money being tied up in banks that were closed. The city´s cash position was also hurt by the fact that it was required to accept scrip issued by Douglas County but could not pay it back out.

Receipt for $19.50 for the redemption of Superior scrip by the City Treasurer. The scrip was redeemable when cash was available or was receivable by the city for taxes or other debts.

In October 1934 the Superior City Clerk noticed something peculiar about certain scrip that was being turned in for redemption. Some of the notes bore serial numbers that had already been redeemed. Since the city cancelled redeemed notes and did not re-issue them, the Clerk knew there was a problem.

Upon closer inspection, some of the $5.00 notes with duplicate serial numbers had a spelling error. Someone had counterfeited the city’s scrip.

$5.00 Superior scrip from the May 15, 1934 issue. It is likely that this was the type counterfeited by the Lurye brothers.

The Superior police investigated the matter and they quickly focused their attention on Ed Lurye, a Superior liquor salesman. He confessed to paying $700.00 in cash for $2,000.00 in bogus scrip to his brother Albert Lurye, a Minneapolis furniture salesman.

Albert Lurye was the mastermind of the operation who employed the assistance of two employees of a print shop in Duluth to make the copies with supplies acquired by Albert Lurye in the Twin Cities.

The Superior scrip had no security devices making it easier to duplicate. Although the scrip was printed on safety paper, the paper was commercially available.

$10.00 Superior scrip from the June 1, 1934 issue. The red text in the background indicates the scrip will not be honored if it were discounted in commercial channels. How the City would have known this is a mystery.

The printers made $30,000.00 in counterfeit $5.00 and $10.00 scrip. The first printing consisted of $10,000.00 of each denomination. A spelling error was noticed and a second printing of $5,000.00 of each denomination was made. They intended to destroy the notes with the error but $3,000.00 in $5.00 notes with the error remained. They reportedly circulated only $2,000.00 in the counterfeit notes before being caught.

Headline in the February 4, 1936 Oshkosh Northwestern relating to the Wisconsin Supreme Court´s decision to uphold the counterfeiting convictions of Albert and Edward Lurye of Superior.

The conspirators were charged with counterfeiting and found guilty after a jury trial. They appealed the conviction. The appeal alleged that the city of Superior did not have authority to issue the scrip as money and that since it was not money, they could not be convicted of counterfeiting. The Wisconsin Supreme Court did not think much of the argument and the conviction was upheld. They were each sentenced to a year in prison.

No examples of the counterfeit scrip have been observed.

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