hen Mike Fuljenz’s grandfather,
Jules Lievens, gave his 6-year-old grandson a silver dollar for making the honor roll, he knew he was helping instill respect for hard work. What he couldn’t have foreseen was the profound impact that lone, shiny coin would have.
Today, Fuljenz is a dynamic, passionate man driven to excellence who turned his love affair with coins into the creation of one of the largest coin and bullion companies of America coinage. As president of Universal Coin & Bullion in Beaumont, Fuljenz has a reputation for honesty, integrity and knowledge of numismatics.
Fuljenz is a frequent contributor to numismatic literary publications. He has written numerous articles on the value of rare coins made of precious metals, as well as authoring several national award-winning books, including the 2010 Numismatic Literary Guild Investment Book of the Year, Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century. He has provided expertise to the U.S. Mint, Federal Trade Commission, input toward creation of a new Texas Precious Metal Dealer Registration, and assisted the Texas Rangers and Runnels County Texas Sheriff’s Department in locating suspected gold thieves. While his commitment to the professionalism of his field is important to Fuljenz, he would much rather speak about his number one reason for collecting beautiful and artistic coins.
A passion is born
Soon after his grandfather rewarded him with that first coin, Fuljenz headed to the local coin shop in his home town of Lake Charles and bought a coin book. He began attending meetings at the coin club and by the time he was 18, had been a four-time president of Southwest Louisiana Coin Club and chairman of the Louisiana State Coin Convention.
“I did a lot of work so they gave me an office. It’s the rule of volunteer organizations,” he laughed.
Fuljenz quickly learned that in addition to the pleasure of discovering new and beautiful coins, collecting offered a financial reward. By age 12, he was mowing yards for $5. He would take the paper money he earned to the bank and trade it for rolls of coins, which he went through looking for ones containing silver. He would keep those, replace them with non-silver, re-roll and take back to the bank to exchange for new rolls. He continued to do that until he was 18.
Buying, selling or trading coins provided money for him to buy more coins. It also changed his life.
“It eventually provided the money for me to date the young lady who became my wife of 34 years.”
Until 1964, dimes contained 90 percent silver, Fuljenz notes. Today’s coins minted for circulation contain no silver - and that pre-1965 dime is worth $1.50.
“That’s 15 times its face value,” Fuljenz said about the excellent return on investment. “And you can still find valuable coins in your change.”
Fuljenz and his wife, Karen, are well-known for their generosity of giving, both financially and personally.
Mike was the third generation of his family to choose a career in education. His mother and grand-mother were teachers for 30 years. The former school teacher and summer school principal volunteers and supports Beaumont I.S.D. and Diocese of Beaumont schools, participates in youth sports programs, Julie Rogers Gift of Life, and Meals on Wheels. Karen volunteers in several community programs, including serving meals to the homebound with Nutrition and Services for Seniors, supports Julie Rogers Gift of Life, Anyat House and Triangle Aids Network.
This past April, Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas named Mike and Karen as Humanitarians of the Year at Breakfast with the Bishop.
The Fuljenzs believe that as people of faith, they are called to share their time, talent and treasure. He credits his grandfather and father for teaching him the value of strong character and a giving spirit.
“Through the way we parent, we impact children and grandchildren. I was fortunate to have very interested and engaged parents and grandparents. My dad, Ray Fuljenz, was very involved with what was then called The Lions Club’s Crippled Children’s Camp. As a prosecutor, he worked with families of kids at the juvenile detention center. That had an impact on me. He told me they needed a hand up, not a hand out. We are here to show these young men and women a better way of life when they get out.”
Fuljenz’s accomplishments include working with State Rep. David Simpson and the Texas Legislature to eliminate the $1,000 minimum expenditure for investors to qualify for a tax exemption.
“We had an exemption for over $1,000 but none under. When I taught school in 1980 I made $1,000 a month. When she taught, my mother made $100 a month. Rep. Simpson and I wanted the young investor to have the same benefit as those who could spend over $1,000.”
While his success in the business world is fulfilling, Fuljenz’s philanthropic works provide something equally tangible.
“Volunteerism is important. It’s like the story of the little boy who found hundreds of starfish stranded on the beach. When people saw him throwing one back in the ocean, they ridiculed him, saying there were too many to make a difference.”
‘It makes a difference to this one,’ the boy replied.
“We can’t make a difference to everyone, but it is important to the ones we do.”VIP