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-you Have A Special Place In My Heart-rare Limited EditionPrecious Moments-extremely Rare-boy/girl With PuppiesVery Rare Precious Moments Boy With Manatee 824119sHuge Precious Moments Lot Of 25 Valuable Figurines/total Book Value Over $1900!!Large Turtle By Precious Moments - Indoor/outdoor Garden Statue 1998 - 2703Precious Moments Lot Of 12 Family,god, Love/original BoxesPrecious Moments "a Perfect Display Of 15 Happy Years, 1981-1995" FigurinePrecious Moments-disney Eeyore-a Friend In NeedPrecious Moments ‘together Is The Nicest Place To Be’Precious Moments **rare** Pm Rocks Band-lead SingerPrecious Moments-disney Showcase Collection-bambi-discover The Beauty Around YouPrecious Moments-very Rare Set Of 5 Japanese Exclusives-all Girls Are BeautifulPrecious Moments "this Land Is Our Land" 527386 Collector's Club Exclusive/$400Precious Moments-rare 2003 Event Figurine-limited Edition 1,100Precious Moments-extremely Rare Japanese School Boy/girls - Set Of 6Precious Moments Set Of Rare 2 Manger Walls For Nativity Set E-5644/ Bv$175/new Precious Moments Lot All Brunette "growing In Grace" Ages 1-7/very Valuable/$775Precious Moments - Disney - Follow Your Heart Precious Moments *huge* Rare-boy/girl Under Umbrella-limited Edition1997Precious Moments-girl/telescope-my Universe Is You-rarePrecious Moments "your Love Reigns Forever In My Heart~2003~~ Perfection~115248Precious Moments Friends Are Never Far Behind 101543 Rare Red Nose ClownPrecious Moments-girl/pearl/sea Otter-rare Le-30th Anniversary Limited EditionPrecious Moments-disney-baloo/mowgli-simple Bare Necessities-jungle BookPrecious Moments-rare Exclusive Limited Edition Of 7500Precious Moments-disney Showcase-beauty And The BeastPrecious Moments **chapel Exclusive** Fountain Of AngelsPrecious Moments Nativity Wall And Palm Tree Accessory Set Painted Pewter Precious Moments Bring The Little Ones To Jesus 527556Bn Rare Ltd Ed 2015 Sq Singapore Air Stewardess Precious Moments Sia Girl Sg50Precious Moments Love Is On It's Way 101544 Rare Red Nose Clown #1 Series Of 53 Vintage 1990s Precious Moments Garden Collection Figures Angel, Rabbit RaccoonPrecious Moments Life Never Smelled So Sweet 101547 Rare Red Nose Clown #3Lot Of 19 Precious Moments FigurinesPrecious Moments-girl Princess W/crown/kitty-sunshine Brings A Purr-fect FriendPrecious Moments-girl/rose Garden-huge Rare Numbered LePrecious Moments~ Two By Two Noah's Ark ~sheep Figurine With BoxPrecious Moments-pirate/parrot W/treasure Chest-le-you Arrr A Treasure To MePrecious Moments "victorious In Jesus" 850942 Huge & Numbered Chapel ExclusivePrecious Moments-extremely Rare Chapel Event-le 1,300Precious Moments-angel/lamb-my Peace I Give Unto TheeVintage 1982 Precious Moments Nativity 4 Pc Set Come Let Us Adore Him Tree/houseLot Of 19 Precious Moments Figurines Original Boxes See ListPrecious Moments-girl On Roller Skates Walking Her DogsPrecious Moments Figurine Share The Gift Of Love Enesco Precious Moments Pewter Miniature We Three Kings Nativity AdditionPrecious Moments-disney-girl/minnie Mouse/toy Chest-i'm So Happy To Have Found UPrecious Moments Bunny, Lamb, Turtle (addition To The Mini Nativity Set) 102296Precious Moments-having A Sister Is Always Having A FriendPrecious Moments-mom Teaches Baby To Walk-baby SeriesPrecious Moments-couple In Rowboat-friends Never Drift ApartPrecious Moments-mother/son-you Are Always There For MePrecious Moments Lord, Help Me Clean Up My Act 101545 Rare Red Nose Clown #2Precious Moments "everything's Better When Shared Together" 108597 Panda BearPrecious Moments Noah's Ark With Various AnimalsPrecious Moments "our Love Is Heaven Scent" 101546 Red Nose Clown/ Clown W/skunkPrecious Moments "love Is On It's Way" 101544 Red Nose Clown/clown W/flowers/newPrecious Moments "friends Are Never Far Behind" 101543 Red Nose Clown/ PiratePrecious Moments "sing In The Excelsis Deo" 183830 Huge Angel/christmas TopperPrecious Moments-snow Penguins-extremely Rare Chapel Exclusive-hand Signed/gene