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 Ornaments And Figurines Lot Of 29 In Original BoxesRare Vintage Lot Of 22 (20 New) Enesco Precious Moments Christmas Ornaments *nr*Precious Moments Disney Belle Figurine "follow Your Heart"Precious Moments Miniature 11 Nativity Figurines Hand Painted E-2395 ChristmasPrecious Moments-large Nativity Additions-wee Three Kings W/bEnesco Precious Moments Nativity They Followed The Star Three Kings Wise Men SetPrecious Moments-disney-beauty And The Beast-you Are My Fairy Tale Come TruePrecious Moments Nativity 11pc Set-come Let Us Adore Him-without Box E-2395Rare Vintage Lot Of 22 (19 New) Enesco Precious Moments Christmas Ornaments *nr*Lot Of 28 Precious Moments Porcelain Christmas Ornaments W/boxes-enesco OrnamentDisney Precious Moments-part Of Your World-little Mermaid-ariel-retiredPrecious Moments-maleficent-disney Wicked Witch Collection-hard To Find!!Precious Moments-disney's Tangled Rapunzel-pascal-flynn Rider/maximus-musicalPrecious Moments-disney-a Hug Is No Bother-christopher Robin Hugging Eeyore1982 Precious Moments 11 Piece Nativity Set E2395 Come Let Us Adore Him- In BoxPrecious Moments Ornament , Twelve Days Of Christmas Ornaments "only 10 Of 12"Precious Moments-disney-aladdin's Jasmine-together We'll Make A Whole New WorldPrecious Moments-rare-complete 12 Days Of Christmas SetPrecious Moments Come Let Us Adore Him Nativity Miniatures In Original Box 1982Precious Moments Nativity 11pc Set-come Let Us Adore Him-with Box Vintage Precious Moments Nativity Set Playset Avon Holiday Christmas F611221 New Precious Moments Nativity Set Miniature 9 Piece Pewter Precious Moments-indian-a Prayer Warriors Faith**signed By Sam**chapel ExclusivePrecious Moments Moments-disney-dumbo Baby Elephant On Tightrope-i Love You TonsPrecious Moments-regular Nativity Addition/drummer Boy/come Let Us Adore HimPrecious Moments Miniature Creche Sugar Town NativityPrecious Moments-disney-belle, Chip, & Mrs. Potts-beauty And The BeastPrecious Moments Chapel Exclusive "how Can I Say Thanks"Precious Moments **very Rare** Girl With Puppies **as-is**1982 Precious Moments 11 Piece Nativity Set E2395 Come Let Us Adore Him- In BoxPrecious Moments-reg. Nativity-2 Pc. Set/camel And Donkey-come Let Us Adore HimPrecious Moments-4 Piece Family Christmas Scene-rare Limited Edition 2004Precious Moments-regular Nativity Shepherd Boy W/lamb-come Let Us Adore HimPrecious Moments Christmas Jesus Is Born Figurine 1979Precious Moments-wizard Of Oz-4 Pc Set-dorothy/tin Man/scarecrow/cowardly LionPrecious Moments-century Circle Hawaiian Exclusive-precious Moments In ParadiseVintage 1979 Precious Moments Nativity Set Mint In Box Come Let Us Adore HimLot Of 21 Precious Moments Christmas Ornaments Complete W/boxes-enesco PorcelainPrecious Moments Sugar Town Post Office 8pc Set Enesco 456217Precious Moments-9 Piece Large (regular) Nativity SetPrecious Moments **very Rare** Girl With Puppies-$750vPrecious Moments-disney-beauty And The Beast-belle/chip And Mrs. Potts-tea-lightPrecious Moments Bisque Miniature 11 Nativity Figurines Hand Painted E-2395Precious Moments Christmas Ornament Baby's First Christmas 2007 Brunette Boy NewPrecious Moments Nativity Set Posable Plastic Figurines & Animals W/box Mint2014 Precious Moments May Your Holiday Sparkle Annual Mib Ornament 141002Vintage 1979 Precious Moments Nativity Set Incomplete Come Let Us Adore HimPrecious Moments Nativity Houses & Palm Tree Set E2387Precious Moments Figurine, A Love Like No Other, Enesco, 1st Edition 1999Precious Moments-disneyland Park Exclusive-its A Treat Being With You-mouse EarsPrecious Moments Figurines Lot Of 51 In Boxes ((lot3))Precious Moments E-2395 Come Let Us Adore Him - Miniature Nativity - 11 PiecesPrecious Moments" The Fun Is Being Together"2000Precious Moments Vintage1982 Nativity Complete 11 Pc- Come Let Us Adore Him2007 Precious Moments Nativity Set 10 Pieces, Stable + 9 Figurines, Very Good. Precious Moments NativityLarge Lot Of 16 Vintage Precious Moments Figurines Mint In BoxesPrecious Moments Figurine-annual Snowman Series-o Come All Ye FaithfulPrecious Moments-rare Chapel Exclusive-his Name Is Jesus *hand Signed By Sam*Precious Moments Ornament Snowman With Puppy Dog And Stocking Resin Nib