COINage Confidential: Michael Ray Fuljenz

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Donn Pearlman with Mike Fuljenz
Donn Pearlman with Mike Fuljenz, 2016 recipient of The Ribbit award from the NLG.
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America’s Gold Expert™

At seven years old, Michael Ray Fuljenz received his first shiny silver dollar after making straight As on his report card. It was a simple gift from his grandfather, Jules “Red” Lievens – a gift that would not only prove how hard work pays off but would also set the young man on a path that would see countless silver and gold coins pass through his hands.

Mike began saving his coins and would go to the local coin shop to see what new specimens he could find. As time went by, he learned more and more about the numismatic industry, and he learned that a more proper term for the shininess of that first coin was “lustrous.” Today, that young love of coins has grown to make him a renowned industry leader in numismatics.

Mike Fuljenz and Gayle Anderson
Mike Fuljenz showed an assortment of gold coins during an interview with KTLA-TV Los Angeles reporter Gayle Anderson at the 2016 World’s Fair of Money.

How did you become America’s Gold Expert?

I filed for a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and provided documentation of my work, which included my interviews on CNBC, CBS, FOX Business, USA Today, Forbes, as well as my consulting work for the U.S. Mint, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Royal Canadian Mint, and Texas Office of Attorney General. Once that information was reviewed and verified by the USPTO, I was granted the trademark as “America’s Gold Expert.”

Is the future of the bullion gold coin marketplace threatened by the proliferation of Chinese counterfeit coins?

There is a serious counterfeit threat by the proliferation of both bullion gold and silver coins and bars, especially from China. Fortunately, we have grading services, the PNG Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, and experts in the industry that can differentiate genuine from counterfeit products. That is why it is important to deal with a true, recognized expert when buying coins and precious metals. For example, I taught seminars and chaired committees on grading and counterfeit detection for almost two decades for the American Numismatic Association and have been involved for three decades in getting money back for buyers who were sold counterfeit coins. So, I have seen firsthand the damage that counterfeit coins can cause to collectors, investors, dealers, and pawnbrokers, especially those who may looking for a bargain and then realize there is no Santa Claus in numismatics.

I have been fortunate enough to be honored for my work in deterring counterfeits in the numismatic market by PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild), ICTA (Industry Council for Tangible Assets), the Numismatic Crime Information Center, the American Numismatic Association, and the Beaumont Police Department. I serve locally on the board of directors for Crime Stoppers of Southeast Texas.

Len Olijar, Mike Fuljenz. and David J. Ryder
Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olijar (wearing a suit with fanciful depictions of $100 notes!), Mike Fuljenz. and United States Mint Director David J. Ryder at the 2019 World’s Fair of Money.

What is your forecast for gold, silver, and platinum?

I believe we are entering a bull market for gold, silver, and platinum. I can easily see gold being at $2,400 an ounce in the next year and silver being at $30 to $40 an ounce in 2021. If this seems overly optimistic, this is in line with similar analysis by Goldman Sachs and CitiGroup. As far as platinum is concerned, I expect platinum to have a sustained rise in price due to its increased use in various types of catalytic converters over the next decade.

What is your favorite area of numismatics?

My first gold coin, which I bought at age 13, was a $5 Indian gold coin. I paid $50 for it, and it was in A.U. (Almost Uncirculated) condition. I mowed ten lawns to get enough money to buy it. My love of Indian gold coins inspired me to write a book in 2010 called “Indian Gold Coins” that received the Numismatic Literary Guild Investment Book of the Year Award. I also wrote a book on $20 Liberties that won the NLG Overall Book of the Year award.

Additionally, I have always liked classic silver commemorative half-dollars. My favorite coin in the 50-piece type set is the Booker T. Washington half dollar. I have one of the finest registry sets listed. I especially admire Dr. Booker T. Washington for his work in raising money to build 5,000 schools for rural children – mostly minority – throughout the South. He and the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald collaborated to do great work to help childhood education.

I became a high school and college chemistry teacher in my 20s, was a summer school principal and later president of the Diocese of Beaumont Catholic School Board, and have always been inspired by the works of Washington and Rosenwald. In 2015, McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., recognized my efforts in supporting education with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Mike Fuljenz with California Gold Rush treasure exhibit
In 2018, Mike Fuljenz hosted a $20 million exhibit in Dallas of California Gold Rush treasure recovered from the fabled “Ship of Gold,” the S.S. Central America, which sank in 1857.

The hobby and science of numismatics has a graying population, and very few young people are entering the field. What needs to be done to expand and grow the hobby?

First, I think the U.S. Mint and all their new designs and focus on kids and numismatic products will help over the next decade. They deserve kudos for their efforts. Next, the ANA’s summer seminars and the coin clubs that help send young numismatists to those seminars are a big part of growing the interest in numismatics for Y.N.’s.

Helping Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn Merit Badges are great programs for coin clubs and coin shows to continue. Thousands of kids have received their Coin Collecting Merit Badge through the efforts of the Greater Houston Coin Club, of which I am a member. And most importantly, coin dealers and veteran collectors have to spend time sharing the gospel of numismatics with young people, like my local coin dealer and local coin club members did with me.

One thing I did to spread the gospel of numismatics was to have a monthly radio coin show on a powerful station for 20 years. I was fortunate enough to win 24 NLG awards and four Press Club of Southeast Texas Radio and T.V. awards for spreading my love of coins by broadcasting throughout Southeast Texas, Southwest Louisiana, and the country for 30 years. I encourage other numismatists to do likewise.

ee Greenwood and Mike Fuljenz
Gold owner and spokesman for Universal Coin & Bullion, country music superstar Lee Greenwood (left) met with Mike Fuljenz at a 2020 concert Greenwood performed in Conroe, Texas, in support of law enforcement agencies.

What is the future of coin shows and conventions post-COVID? What made the FUN show perennially successful pre-pandemic, while other shows are on the verge of obsolescence?

I think there is a bright future for coin shows in popular locations with favorable tax laws. This is very important because some states, like Tennessee and Arkansas, have tax laws on coins and precious metals that make it difficult to have a successful major coin show. I serve on the ICTA executive board and encourage all to support ICTA’s work in obtaining or preserving sales tax exemptions on coins and precious metals in all states.

The key to any successful coin show is a great local organization involved in the show. FUN, for example, does a great job and has a great destination city for collectors and dealers alike to go to. It is the combination of a good location and great coin club behind it that makes it all work. As former coin club president, past chairman of a state coin convention, and FUN Numismatic Ambassador, I can personally attest to this.

How would a cashless world affect coin and banknote collecting?

I do not believe we will have a cashless world in the next decade as consumers and business owners do not like to pay the two- to the three-percent fee they would have to pay for credit cards, PayPal, and other non-cash transactions. Like Canada and other major countries have done, the U.S. Mint could eliminate the cent in the next decade for financial savings.

Mike Fuljenz at seminar
Over the past decade, Mike Fuljenz has made presentations across the country at dozens of numismatic seminars for collectors and educational workshops for law enforcement officers.

What motivated you to become a key figure in the Numismatic Literary Guild?

I became a board member for the Numismatic Literary Guild and sponsored events because I believe in creating opportunities for numismatists to share their knowledge with others and to be recognized for that. I am most proud of our financial efforts to reduce membership costs for the younger generations who want to participate in the Numismatic Literary Guild. I am also proud of working with other prominent NLG members in assisting the Better Business Bureau, the FTC, and the Texas Attorney General with consumer alerts.

What is the future of print media?

I think print media’s future in the numismatic industry is to share information on coins and advertise coins. This will be important for the next 10 to 20 years, as more than 90 percent of our customers, even those who are avid online users, like to hold physical publications — with great photography — in their hand to markup and refer to. We find that most collectors and investors are in the 50- to 80-year-old age group, and they still appreciate having a hard copy publication in their hand.

Mike Fuljenz and Jimmy Hayes
Mike Fuljenz with Jimmy Hayes, the Industry Council for Tangible Assets Executive Director and a former Louisiana congressman.

How many awards have you received, and which are your favorites?

I have received about a hundred awards during my career.

My favorite awards are the ones I receive for helping people. While I am honored to receive the lifetime achievement award, The Clemy, from the NLG, awards I have received from the PNG (for helping an elderly man get his money back from criminals), from ICTA, and from the Numismatic Crime Information Center (for my work on anti-counterfeiting) are most rewarding. Helping a respected doctor get $1 million back from a crook was pretty satisfying, too. None of this could have happened without the assistance and encouragement of others.

Also, area awards for helping others, like the Catholic Charities Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Save Our Children Top Award, a Meals on Wheels Top Award, and the Beaumont Independent School District Literacy for Children Award are the ones I will always treasure for my work in helping disadvantaged people in the region.

I was also honored to be voted the chief umpire of our local little league and president of our Beaumont Youth Basketball League, Little Dribblers, when my son and daughter participated. My work in this wonderful numismatic industry has helped me help others in need.

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