Down along the coast of Texas there's a Beaumont company, Universal Coin & Bullion, that truly understands that all that glitters is not gold. Both CEO Mike Fuljenz and his staff say they like to keep their shiny stuff tempered with metal more suited for making bullets. Lead, they explain, is a too often discredited element that keeps gold and silver safe-when it's not protecting several centuries' worth of individual freedoms these southeast Texans hold dear.
Fuljenz has had his eye on silver and gold since childhood in Lake Charles, La. It started when his grandfather gave him a silver dollar for making all A’s on his report card. Mike also used his lawn-mowing money to buy coin books, learn about rare currency and begin collecting. Over time his knowledge and expertise grew, and Mike watched what started out as a hobby grow into a lucrative career path.
First, though, the Lake Charles native would attend McNeese State University and then the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Fuljenz followed in his mother's footsteps and became an educator. But, like so many teachers, Mike's summers were spent generating a little extra income.
Fuljenz made extra money doing what he loved-going to coin shows, buying, selling, trading, bartering, assessing. Following several years as teacher and administrator, his growing reputation in the field of numismatics (the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money and related objects) generated a call from a firm in Colorado Springs. The organization wanted Mike to become a full-time authenticator and grader of coins. Following some deliberation, Mike and his wife Karen, a physical therapist, left the bayous for the higher, drier climate of southern Colorado.
Mike quickly went to work on becoming one of the most respected individuals in his field. Twenty-one years ago he moved to south Texas and began to grow Universal Coin & Bullion into one of the best numismatic firms in the business. Along the way Mike and Karen, now married 37 years, have earned numerous honors for their charitable works in the Beaumont area. From Meals on Wheels to extra-curricular coaching to helping out local law enforcement, Mike and Karen Fuljenz are widely known as the couple working overtime to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Some 10 years ago Mike began advertising in NRA publications. Today Universal Coin & Bullion is the number-one advertiser, and Mike Fuljenz is a Golden Ring of Freedom member. "I believe in giving time, talent and treasure to support the Second Amendment," Fuljenz said. He's also a strong advocate for firearms safety training for young people, and his support for the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has generated admirers throughout the gun safety community.
Mike's devotion to the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, he says, stems from his tenure as a teacher, principal and school board president. Learning the right way to go about hunting and shooting is important to Fuljenz, in that each have been part of the bond he shares with his son, Jake. They've spent time together on a Texas deer lease, enjoyed each other's company at the pistol range and also share quality time on the golf course. The Fuljenz men also find adventure helping landowners rid their property of the feral hogs that infest far too many southeast Texas acres, and they always pack in plenty of ammo when gearing up for the task. "You don't want to be like Barney Fife, with only one bullet in your pocket, and wind up facing some nasty, charging hogs, each one of them bristling with bad intentions," Fuljenz says.
A love of and respect for, hunting, shooting and the Second Amendment is deeply entrenched in Mike, his son, and the men and women he works with. "Most of my representatives are NRA Life members," Fuljenz points out. "One is the president of our local NRA chapter-a group that remains one of the top fundraisers in Texas. Our firm supports our local NRA banquet, and the last one we helped with packed the Beaumont Event Centre. At the same time, we sponsor as many NRA-ILA events as we can."
Fuljenz is currently working with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre to raise funds for the NRA through the sale of a Silver American Eagle coin certified with LaPierre's facsimile signature. "With this coin, Wayne joins other notables including presidents, mint directors and major league baseball players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," the Beaumont numismatist said.
Fuljenz and his crew have been the driving force behind several NRA Foundation dinners, matching fund programs and prayer breakfasts at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits. All appear to be labors of love for a man who's been honored as humanitarian of the year, served as president of the Diocese of Beaumont Catholic School Board and volunteered as coach and umpire for some 25 youth sports teams. Fuljenz and his firm have been honored by the Beaumont Police Department, and he serves on the board of the local Crime Stoppers group. Mike also has been recognized for his efforts in supporting America's men and women in uniform.
The Lake Charles native’s hands-on involvement in so many charities, and his honorary doctorate, underscore why his friends refer to Mike as a human dynamo.
"He's a great individual, a great father and an outstanding business watchdog," a longtime associate asserts. "Most of all Mike cherishes freedom, whether it's financial freedom or our Second Amendment freedoms. Liberty is what it's all about for Mike Fuljenz."
Mike's quirky sense of humor, combined with his analytical mind, just seem to attract people, from the police officers that drop by his place of work to the hundreds of people who show up for Fuljenz-sponsored shooting events-the ones with proceeds earmarked for local charities. As Fuljenz proudly points out, "Most places have charity golf tournaments, but here in Texas we also like to show off our shooting skills for a good cause."
Despite being a very busy man, Fuljenz always urges parents to take time out for family. He points to days shared on the golf course, shooting range and in a deer blind as ranking high on his list of special memories.
"It's a busy world, and sometimes we're hard-pressed to find those opportunities that allow parents and their children to share special time together," Fuljenz said. "But it's such indispensable time, and hunting and shooting have a history of providing quality moments together, especially for sons and fathers."
Quality time results in quality lives, and you need look no farther than the Fuljenz household to see how good people can make a big difference in their community and their state. Karen Fuljenz has driven Meals on Wheels for 16 years, and continues to participate in reading programs for disadvantaged children, among many other charitable activities. Together Mike and Karen have made such a difference in the Beaumont area that, in 2013, they were named Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas' Humanitarians of the Year.
The Beaumont couple believe that, as people of faith, they are called to share their time, talent and treasure. Mike credits his grandfather and father for teaching him the value of strong character and a giving spirit.
"Volunteerism is important," Mike points out. "It's like the story of the little boy who finds hundreds of starfish stranded on a beach. When people see him tossing the starfish back into the ocean, they ridicule him, saying there are way too many to make a difference. The boy stares at them for a minute. Then he says, "It made a difference to the one I just tossed back in.""
As a man "driven to excellence," Fuljenz finds enough time for a wide diversity of Texas children to earn Save Our Children's top award. All these awards are bonuses rounding out a professional career that's authored award-winning books, along with consumer education and protection guidelines cited in publications including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Forbes and Kiplinger.
Mike also appears in front of the camera as a consumer advocate. He’s been a guest on CNBC, FOX and Bloomberg TV. Fuljenz has also served as a consultant to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint and the State Bar of Texas. And, although all the above may sound far too exhausting for the average superhuman, Fuljenz has a simple answer when you ask him why he pushes himself so hard: "It's fun."
And that's fortunate for the rest of the world. According to Eric Lipp, NRA Community Outreach national manager, "The success of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program can be attributed to people like Mike Fuljenz. We thank him for his continued support in spreading Eddie's life-saving message to more than 28 million people."
For Mike, Eddie Eagle and all the rest is just what you do if you really care. And it's plain that Fuljenz cares passionately about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
"I believe strongly in the three precious metals of freedom-gold, silver and lead," he says. "I've been privileged to work with and sell two of these precious metals. The other I've left to all the fine businesses in the firearms industry."
Mike may leave the bullet making to the manufacturers, but he's always been right on target with his philanthropic philosophy and ability to help build better lives for those in need. Mike's goal in business has been to make buying and selling coins and precious metals a safe, easy and rewarding experience for all. Gold, silver and lead may be Mike's favorite metals, but folks who know him best say there's a mineral missing from the equation-for this Texan with Louisiana roots and a history of giving of himself, it's a surefire sprinkling of salt of the earth.