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-disney Theme Park Only Exclusive Ornament-girl/minnie MousePrecious Moments-disney-beauty And The Beast-belle/chip And Mrs. Potts-tea-lightPrecious Moments Disney Showcase CollectionPrecious Moments-disney-beauty And The Beast-belle/chip And Mrs. Potts-tea-lightPrecious Moments Group Of 5 FigurinesPrecious Moments-disney Winnie The Pooh-eeyore-some Days Have Their Ups & DownsPrecious Moments-disney's Belle-beauty And The Beast-friends-happily Ever AfterPrecious Moments-disney-ariel/flounder/starfish-the Little Mermaid-you're A StarPrecious Moments-disney Collection-leader Of The Band-baby Mickey, Donald, GoofyPrecious Moments-rare Japanese Zodiac Snake ExclusivePrecious Moments-disney-toy Story Woody Musical-you've Got A Friend In MePrecious Moments-chapel Indian Le-a Prayer Warriors Faith Can Move MountainsPrecious Moments-disney-a Hug Is No Bother-christopher Robin Hugging EeyorePrecious Moments Figurines Lot Of 10 - With Boxes. 1983-1999Precious Moments-disney-a Hug Is No Bother-christopher Robin Hugging EeyorePrecious Moments-disney Showcase Fantasia-mickey Mouse Sorcerer's ApprenticePrecious Moments-rare Collection Porcelain Display Sign/heart Shaped PlaquePrecious Moments ~ Wizard Of Oz ~ Good Witch? Figurine 2004Disney Showcase Precious Moments - "y, Because We Like You" FigurinePrecious Moments-disney Pirate Of The Caribbean-jack Sparrow-i Found My TreasurePrecious Moments-disney Classics-the Fox And The Hound-you're My Best FriendPrecious Moments ~ Wizard Of Oz ~ Flying Monkey Figurine 2004Precious Moments-you Are The Sunshine Of My LifePrecious Moments Figurines - Lot Of 10Precious Moments *very Rare* Silent Knight Music Box-$460vPrecious Moments-muppets-boy Playing Banjo W/kermit The Frog-music & FriendshipPrecious Moments Large LotPrecious Moments-disney Collection-girl In Minnie Mouse Dress/bow And Mouse EarsPrecious Moments "god's Love Is Reflected In You" 175277 Rare Century CirclePrecious Moments Disney Jasmine Aladdin You Make All My Wishes Come True 730012Precious Moments-chapel Exclusive Indian-the Lord Is Our Chief InspirationLot Of 5 Precious Moments Figurines W/boxes & Papers - See BelowPrecious Moments-angel/wings W/baby Bunnies In BasketPrecious Moments-beautiful Holy Family Nativity Ornament-peace On EarthPrecious Moments Ornament-couple In Love Driving Car-the Honeymoon Never EndsPrecious Moments **huge** Angels On Stool Because Of Mouse-yikes!! Precious Moments **rare Reindeer** Ornament Cute-limited Edition Dated 1986 Precious Moments God Loveth A Cheerful Giver 1977 Free Puppies No MarkPrecious Moments 12 Days Of Christmas Ornaments Complete SetPrecious Moments-indian Couple In Canoe **rare** Many Moons In Same CanoePrecious Moments-rare Le-st. Jude Children-never Let Go Of Hope-supermanPrecious Moments-you Are My Fairy Tale-mickey And Minnie Mouse-disney WeddingPrecious Moments Christmas Ornaments Lot Of 10Precious Moments *huge* Rare-boy/girl Under Umbrella-limited Edition1997Precious Moments Figurine ~ Come Let Us Adore Him ~ Jonathan & David 1978Precious Moments - No Tears Past The Gate, 101826 W/boxRare Precious Moments Lot Of Five Little Moments Mint No Boxes LqqkPrecious Moments **rare Ebay Exclusive Figurine** #1 Of Set Of 3Precious Moments-disney Showcase-beauty And The BeastPrecious Moments-disney-mickey And Minnie In Love, Fishing In Boat-hooked On YouPrecious Moments-2004 Signing Tour Exclusive-hand Signed By Shuhei FujiokaPrecious Moments ~ Wizard Of Oz ~ Figurine (s) 2004 Lot Of 2Precious Moments ~ Wizard Of Oz ~ Princess / Queen? Figurine 2004Precious Moments-girl Clasping Her Hands In Prayer-prayer Changes ThingsPrecious Moments-girl W/puppy-ice Cream With Joy When You're With MePrecious Moments-disney Showcase Collection-donald Duck *signed By Gene*Precious Moments Ornament-boy W/baseball Bat-little SluggerPrecious Moments-reg. Nativity Addition-shepherd/king/crown-camel/royal BudgePrecious Moments-witch/broomstick-witch Way Do You Spell Love?Precious Moments ~ Wizard Of Oz ~ Scarecrow Figurine 2004