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 Part Of Your World. The Little Mermaid. ArielDisney Precious Moments Be My Guest For Our Birthday BestDisney Precious Moments #830009 Anything Is Possible With Friends - Cinderella Disney Precious Moments Figurine Believe In The Power Of True LoveDisney Precious Moments Friends Have A Way Of Keeping You CoolPrecious Moments-singapore Thots Exclusive-extremely Rare In The Us - Usa SellerPrecious Moments **very Rare** Girl With Puppies-$750v-rare One Hole Variety Disney Precious Moments Figurine You Make The Ordinary ExtraordinaryDisney Precious Moments Gathering Friends Together Is A Wonderful StoryLot Of 3 Precious Moments FigurinesPrecious Moments 283436 Wall (addition To The Mini Nativity) 1997Precious Moments Serving Up Fun, I'll Never Let You Down, Dear Friend My Love...Lot Of Seven Precious Moments "growing In Grace" FigurinesPrecious Moments-rare Chapel Exclusive Clown-every Precious Moment Needs A SmilePrecious Moments Rare Yellow Skirt 4003777 Hawaiian ExclusivePrecious Moments 11 Piece Miniature Nativity Set #e-2395 Mib Lot Of 3 Precious Moments Figurines Precious Moments Figurine Disney There's Nothin' To It When It Comes To You Disney Precious Moments Our Love Has No BoundariesDisney Precious Moments Figurine You're One In A MillionPrecious Moments-best Friends/sisters Combing Hair-rareLot Of 3 Precious Moments FigurinePrecious Moments**huge**10 Puppies-le 1 Year Production *rare* Disney Precious Moments Figurine Part Of Your WorldVintage Nib 1987 Precious Moments Birthday Train Series, 8 Years Old #109460 Precious Moments-country Lane-girl At Fruit & Vegetable Stand-retiredLot Of 3 Precious Moments FigurinesHoly Smokes, Precious Moments, E-2351 AngelsWalking By Faith, Precious Moments, E-3117 Large PieceEnesco Precious Moments Birthday Train Age 12 And 13 Series 2000Precious Moments-disney Princess-ariel-a Part Of My World-cute!Disney Precious Moments Figurine You Make All My Wishes Come TrueDisney Precious Moments Figurine Lean On MePrecious Moments Come Let Us Adore Him Nativity 104000 1986 Disney Precious Moments Love At First KissMiniature Lot 100 Precious Moments Hallmark Looney Tunes DisneyDisney Precious Moments Figurine Everything Better With FriendsLot Of 3 Precious Moments FigurinesDisney Precious Moments Together Is The Nicest Place To BeVintage Bride And Groom Lefton China Made In JapanPrecious Moments-and To All A Good Night-christmas Remembered SeriesPrecious Moments Disney Snow White Gathering Friends Together Wonderful Story Precious Moments-2 Pilots/airplane/plans-weve Got The Right Plan-hand Signed/samPrecious Moments Love Always Comes Disney Precious Moments Delight In The Little Joys Of LifeHuge Lot Precious Moments, Mini Nativity & Buildings + 16 Regular, 5 MiniaturePrecious Moments Figurine Friends Share The Story Of Our Hearts No.a0539Precious Moments "home Is Where My Cats Are" Figurine Hamilton Collection 4117aPrecious Moments-i Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus-huge!!Lot Of 2 Precious Moments Ornaments Slow Down Snail & Pack Trunk ElephantTime Heals, Precious Moments, 523739 Nurse With Box And TagsPrecious Moments-policeman Directing "traffic" Scarce!!I Only Have Ice For You, Precious Moments, 530956Precious Moments-i Love You Forever And Always-rare Huge LePrecious Moments - He Is Risen....rare Chapel ExclusiveI Get A Kick Out Of You, Precious Moments - E-2827God Bless Our Home, Precious Moments, 12319Precious Moments Reisen In Deutschland Germany Medallion-106 Produced WorldwidePrecious Moments-very Rare Chapel Hotel Exclusive Le Vtg Precious Moments Happy Birthday Train -age 11 Turtle Figure Present Gift