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Beaumont business owner uses his knowledge, enthusiasm to inspire kids

With permission from The Examiner

Mike Fuljenz is not just the head of a thriving gold business with clients throughout the United States – though he certainly is that.

The author, broadcaster and teacher is one of the most universally decorated coin experts of the last 30 years. Whether a novice or veteran collector of gold coins actually makes a purchase or not, their experience is informed by Fuljenz’s extensive knowledge – and his willingness to share it. His 2010 book “Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century” has quickly become a key resource for those interested in these beautiful collectibles.

From his many appearances on CNBC and Fox News to his Beaumont radio show to his work guiding journalists as they attempt to navigate the Byzantine world of collectible coins and those who traffic in them, he has become a national figure.

“Mike Fuljenz is the nation’s No. 1 coin and bullion expert. No one knows physical precious metals better,” is how Franklin Sanders, editor of The Moneychanger, put it.

But for all his professional accolades and achievements, there are other words that express the values closest to his heart. Words like responsibility … honor … integrity … community … education … opportunity … service.

While Fuljenz will wax euphoric about the exquisite $10 Indian Head Eagles born of sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens by way of Theodore Roosevelt, when the talk turns to teaching children, it is possible to take the full measure of the man.

His late father Raymond Fuljenz was an attorney and juvenile court prosecutor in Lake Charles, La., who demonstrated a special knack for working with troubled youth to the end of his life, even when advancing arthritis confined him.

The fruit didn’t fall far from that tree, as young Mike became a school teacher and later principal before making his mark in the world of numismatics, where he taught seminars on counterfeit detection and gold and silver coinage as he became an acknowledged expert in the field. But his heart is with children.

When students at Jack Yates High School in Houston’s inner city reached outstanding performance levels in standardized tests this year, their achievement cried out for recognition similar that bestowed on the school’s basketball team. After winning the state championship in 2009, they followed that up with a national championship in 2010.

Yates physics and math teacher Ralph Ross, who uses old coins to help students understand history, art, politics and science, reached out to rare coin dealers to help honor high performing students. Answering the call were Johnny Duncan of U.S. Coins in Houston, Steve Ivy of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas — and Mike Fuljenz. They donated 2010-dated silver American Eagles struck by the U.S. Mint, presented to 50 students who achieved the “commended” level in science or mathematics on the TAKS test.

Among the recipients was Gregory Watts, who in addition to being part of two champion teams, was a stellar performer in the classroom. Watts was class salutatorian and is off to the University of Texas in Austin as a pre-med student.

For Fuljenz, this opportunity to combine his passions of education, sports and coins was especially sweet. As an inductee of the McNeese State University Athletics Hall of Honor, he relishes any involvement with youth sports. He has coached little league baseball and soccer, and served on the board of the West End YMCA in Beaumont. His love for basketball especially led him to coach youth teams in Texas and Louisiana, becoming coach and later president of the Beaumont Little Dribblers.

Fuljenz is also a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, and it is no surprise that his commitment is not of the passive variety.

When you talk to Mike Fuljenz, it is nearly impossible to avoid being swept away by the multiple enthusiasms of this man for all seasons. It is not often that you meet a successful businessman that quotes Mother Theresa, but this is no ordinary guy.

“The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway,” reads one line from a poem by the Indian Catholic nun who ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned and dying.

Those are not just words to Fuljenz; they represent a philosophy that guides his life.