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    

Disney Precious Moments Figurine Believe In The Power Of True LovePrecious Moments~a Prayer 4 Warriors Faith Can Move Mountains~chapel Ex~ 354406Disney Precious Moments #830009 Anything Is Possible With Friends - CinderellaHuge Lot Precious Moments, Mini Nativity & Buildings + 16 Regular, 5 MiniaturePrecious Moments-musical Wishing Well-wishing You Were HerePrecious Moments-disney Showcase-monsters Inc-sully And MikePrecious Moments Disney Friends Share Caring HeartsPrecious Moments "owl"always Be There For You-very CutePrecious Moments *huge* It's Almost Time For Santa *rare*Precious Moments Disney Laughter Gives Friends The Power To ShareDisney Precious Moments Figurine You Make The Ordinary ExtraordinaryEnesco Precious Moments Base For Miniature Nativity SetPrecious Moments-extremely Rare Chapel Exclusive-turtle-going To The ChapelDisney Precious Moments Figurine You're One In A MillionPrecious Moments-girl In Snow With Penguin-alaskan EskimoPrecious Moments Flight Into Egypt 1998 Special Limited Edition 455970 NativityPrecious Moments Figurine Friends Share The Story Of Our Hearts No.a0539Precious Moments Disney What Would I Do If I Didn't Have YouPrecious Moments-newborn Baby-something Precious From AbovePrecious Moments Disney You Make My World A WonderlandPrecious Moments Disney Figurine Dreams Really Do Come TruePrecious Moments *rare* You Are My Once In A Lifetime-fisherman/womanPrecious Moments Together Wherever We GoDisney Precious Moments Figurine You Make All My Wishes Come TruePrecious Moments-disney Princess-ariel-a Part Of My World-cute!Precious Moments~lot Of 4~the Four Seasons~~spring~summer~fall~winterPrecious Moments Birthday Train Lot 1-8Precious Moments Christmas Ornament Lot - 8 Pcs (1989-1995) RetiredPrecious Moment Disney Love Will Never ExtinctPrecious Moments **huge** Boy & Girl Sipping Ice Cream SodaPrecious Moments Precious Thots Exclusive Thots Of You Make Life Sweeter, 109036Precious Moments In Paradise, 101549 Limited EditionGod Loveth A Cheerful Giver!! 1977 No Mark Original 21Large Precious Moments Figurine Family: God Bless Our Years Together 12440, 1984Precious Moments Lot Of 3 Includes "blessed Are They With A Caring Heart"Precious Moments Disney The Joy You Bring Awaken My Heart Precious Moments 114022 The Good Lord Has Blessed Us Tenfold W/puppiesPrecious Moments Ariel "part Of Your World" Little Mermaid DisneyPrecious Moments **very Rare** Sweetheart Safari Medallion Precious Moments~jesus Is My Lighthouse Lamp ~487945~ Perfect Mib~ltd.ed. 1998Precious Moments Disney The Shortest Distance Between Two HeartsPrecious Moments~fountain Of Angels~384844~chapel Exclusive Figurine~1997~mintPrecious Moments-girl Opening Miniature Nativity GiftPrecious Moments-very Scarce-daddy's Little Girl-familyPrecious Moments Disney A Friend In NeedPrecious Moments-tribute For Princess Diana-chapel ExclPrecious Moments-mother Rocking Baby To Sleep-love Never Leaves A Mother's ArmsPrecious Moments-boy Pulling Girl In Wagon *huge*-nicePrecious Moments-girl/cat/pumpkin/heart-mornin' PumpkinPrecious Moments-indian/bunny/arrow- *missum You*Precious Moments Figurine Porcelain Large Angel With Harp, Halo, Wings 975893Precious Moments Love Always ComesPrecious Moments-extremely Rare Chapel Event-le 1,300Precious Moments Enesco 12 Days/christmas #10 "leaping Into Holidays" 456071 MibPrecious Moments Chicago Cubs 2004 Limited Edition RarePrecious Moments-waiter-rare Chapel Exclusive FigurinePrecious Moments Birthday Train Year 13 "you Mean The Moose To Me" (moose)Precious Moments-rare **chapel Exclusive** The Most Precious Place On EarthPrecious Moments Disney Anything Is Possible With FriendsPrecious Moments Ornament A Beary Warm Aloha! 101550 Limited Edition