Samuel J. Butcher started his art career in the 1960s as a “chalkboard minister,” or an artist who would visit churches and tell Christian stories using colored chalk on large sheets for International Child Evangelism Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Because this job didn’t pay well, he also worked as a janitor. Eventually, he started sketching children with large heads and teardrop eyes as gifts for his family and friends. He called these images “Precious Moments.”

In the early 1970s, he joined up with a friend named Bill Biel to produce cards and posters featuring his Precious Moments drawings. Starting in 1974, the two called their company Jonathan & David, named after the famous friends in the Old Testament. They set up a tiny booth at the yearly Christian Booksellers Association in Anaheim, California, and soon were mobbed with retailers who wanted the line for their stores. Nearby vendors came to the booth to help them fill orders.

Soon, Enesco Corporation came to Butcher to enquire about designing three-dimensional figurines based on “Love One Another”— the first drawing in the Precious Moments line, which was based on Butcher’s daughter, Tammy, sitting back-to-back on a stool with her Uncle Bill. When the first sample was presented to Butcher, he broke down in tears.

Enesco introduced 21 Precious Moments figures at the end of 1978. Immediately, the company was flooded with orders for these figurines, as Butcher received letters from fans who felt particularly moved by his creations. Often, Butcher’s artworks are inspired by Bible verses. For example, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” depicts a little girl wearing threadbare, patched clothing with a forlorn expression on her face.

Each year, around 25-40 new Precious Moments are put into production, as 12 to 20 older figurines are retired or suspended from production. A suspended figurine may be added to production at later date, but retired models are completely out of the question, as the molds are broken upon retirement. At this point, more than 1,500 Precious Moments figurine models have been introduced, but Love One Another is the only of the original 21 still in production.

In the 1980s, Butcher took inspiration from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome and designed a chapel with 52 murals inspired by biblical stories as an expression of his Christian faith. The Precious Moments Park and Chapel opened in Carthage, Missouri, in 1989, and since then, the attraction has drawn around 400,000 tourists a year.

Hundreds of couples also get married at the Precious Moment Chapel each year. (And the Precious Moments figurine May the Lord Bless You and Keep You has topped at least a million...

However, in the mid-2000s, the popularity of Precious Moments was in decline, as membership in collectors clubs dropped from more than 200,000 in the late 1990s to just 20,000. In 2005, Enesco gave up its license to produce the porcelain figures, returning the rights to Butcher’s company, now called Precious Moments, Inc., in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The family company, run by Butcher’s son, Jon, also licenses Butcher’s approximately 12,000 images to other companies such as Hallmark Cards and Procter & Gamble.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

V&A Porcelain Figures

V&A Porcelain Figures

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s online collection of Meissen porcelain figures includes more than 150 pieces, in… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Precious Moments God Loveth A Cheerful Giver 1977 No Mark SignedDisney Showcase Precious Moments "gathering Friends Together A Wonderful Story"Set Of Precious Moments Figurines Christmas Nativity Add Ons Lamb Turtle RabbitPrecious Moments Birthday Train Turtle #11 "it's Your Time"Precious Moments Lot Of 10 No Box - Lot#4ludPrecious Moments Lot Of 15 Sugartown People And Accessories No BoxesPrecious Moments Disney Princess Birthday Train Set Of 13.Precious Moments Ready In The "nick" Of Time, 804088 Chapel Ex Le Rare!! SignedPrecious Moments Sugar Town Canister SetPrecious Moments Figurines Mixed Lot With Boxes & Papers Perfect ConditionSet Of 4 Precious Moments Carousel Horse Spring,summer,winter & Fall New In BoxDisney Showcase Collection "it's Never To Late For Fun With Friends"Lot Of 14 Precious Moment Figurines, No Boxes, All Mint! LqqkPrecious Moments LotPrecious Moments "i Get A Kick Out Of You" E-2827Precious Moments Disney Dumbo Now You Can Fly FigurineDisney Showcase Precious Moments "now You Can Fly"Precious Moments, Many Moons In Same Canoe, Blessum You 520772 **rare**Precious Moments "wishing You A Heavenly Holiday" 118301 Angel Decorating TreeVintage 1990 Enesco Precious Moments Storybook Lights 2 Set Of (10) Christmas 3 Goebel W Germany Red & White Attached Bunny Rabbits Original Box Exc Cond!!!Precious Moments **huge** 15 Happy Years What A Tweet-"hand Signed By Sam"Lot Of 13 - Vintage - Precious Moments - Burden - Light - Lord - Jesus - LovePrecious Moments Ruth And NaomiPrecious Moments "we're Even Better Now Than Before!" 103032 Sisters Dressing UpPrecious Moments 520772 Many Moons In Same Canoe With Box Foam And CardRare Precious Moments Nurses Are Blessed With Patients Chart 101554 Year 2001Precious Moments Birthday Train Age 14-walrus/tusksPrecious Moments "praise The Lord And Dosie-do" 455733 Cowboy & His Gal DancingPrecious Moments-magician/rabbit W/special Assistant-u Are The Magic In My LifePrecious Moments-mickey Mouse And Minnie W/popcorn/movies-disneyPrecious Moments Life Is A Fiesta International Series Box Little Moments 456831Precious Moment Figurine, The Most Precious Place On Earth 879711Precious Moments-germany-boy Playing Accordian-sure Would Love To Squeeze YouPrecious Moments 163813 25 Anniversary Precious Moments-you Are My Amour-nibPrecious Moments International (kenya) Afri-can Be There For You, I Will Be Htf Precious Moments "god Is In The Still Small Voice" Little Girl Holding Seashell.Lot Of 7 Ea. Enesco Precious Moments Birthday Train Ages 1-11 & Clown FigurePrecious Moments Nativity Set. Miniature Precious Moments-9 Piece Large Nativity Set With BoxPrecious Moments Nib Noah's Ark Water Ball FigurinePrecious Moments Enesco Growing In Grace Age 16 Figurine 136263 Vintage 1994Lot Of 20 Precious Moments Ceramic Figurine Ornaments 1980s 90s + Jewelry BoxesPrecious Moments-waltz/ballroom Dancing CouplePrecious Moments-nativity Holy Family-large Le/3000 WorldwidePrecious Moments 1994 "god Bless The Day We Found You" Figurine #100145rPrecious Moments-disney Cars-lightning Mcqueen & Mater-i'll Never Tire Of YouPrecious Moments Birthday Train Panda # 12 "give A Grin And Let The Fun Begin"Precious Moments Birthday Train 9Precious Moments "navity Cart" 528072 Nativity Addition Cart W/chickenEnesco Precious Moments Two By Two Noah's Ark Night Light Set Four Animal SetsPrecious Moments "you Will Always Be Our Hero" 1995 Limited EditionPrecious Moments Growing In Grace Age 2 Blonde Girl Figure New!Precious Moments-waitress-friendship Made To Order Precious Moments - Bless Those Who Serve Their Country - 1991 - 526568Precious Moments "seal-ed With A Kiss" F004 Seal On Block Of Ice W/heart In IceLot Of Precious Moments Sugar Town Figurines/collectables, MiniaturesPrecious Moments Lot Set 5 Animal Figurines Mib Le Cute!!!!Lot Of Enesco Precious Moments Birthday Series