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-couple Taking Romantic Boat Ride-you're The Only Fish In My SeaPrecious Moments-extremely Rare Japanese School Boys/girls-hard To Find Set Of 6Precious Moments-6 Piece Set Family Christmas Scene-rare Limited Edition-$225vPrecious Moments You Can Always Spot A Friend Disney 101 Dalmatians 132004 NibPrecious Moments-9 Piece Regular/large Nativity SetPrecious Moments "flight Into Egypt" 1998 Special Limited Edition 455970 .mib!!!Rare Precious Moments Premier Collection Clown Angel In Disguise LimitedPrecious Moments Lot Of 16 ( Includes 3 Sets) O Come Let Us Adore Him, Three KinRare Vintage 1982 Precious Moments Goat Christmas Nativity Figurine E-2364 W/boxThe Lord Is Our Chief Inspiration, Precious Moments Figurine By Enesco - 204862Precious Moments-princess Girl/kitty Looking Beautiful In A Mirror-i'm So FancyPrecious Moments-japanese School Boy And Girl Rare With Boxes!!!!Precious Moments-disney Collection-girl In Minnie Mouse Dress/bow And Mouse EarsPrecious Moments **rare Ebay Exclusive Figurine** #1 Of Set Of 3Precious Moments-couple/classic Car Ride Down Memory Lane-our Love Is TimelessPrecious Moments Lot Of 33 Members Only Figures, Symbol Of Membership. Mib. Precious Moments "come Let Us Adore Him" 9 Piece Porcelain Nativity Set E-2800Sam Butcher - Precious Moments Collection - Lot Of 54 Individual Art Pieces !! Precious Moments-wedding-bride/groom-i Give You My Love Forever True-cake TopperPrecious Moments Lot 2 -i'm Sending You A White Christmas+send Merry ChristmasPrecious Moments-friends Help Us Keep Moving On-girl/dog On Road Trip-rare LePrecious Moments-friend Lifting Spirits W/dvd-ice Cream-where Would I Be W/o YouPrecious Moments-rare Collection Porcelain Display Sign/heart Shaped Plaque Precious Moments Lot, Big, Huge, EnormousPrecious Moments, "you Are My Happily Ever After"Enesco 1984 Precious Moments God Bless Our Years Together Club Commem Figurine "moms Hit Home Run Every Day" Chicago Cubs 2002 Precious Moments Nl ChampsPrecious Moments-reg. Nativity Addition-shepherd/king/crown-camel/royal BudgePrecious Moments Lighted Fall Resin Figures Boy And Girl SetPrecious Moments , E5634 Wee Three Kings Ornament Set, 3"h No BoxesPrecious Moments 1999 Figurine Peace In The Valley Victorian Girl Horse 649929Lot Of 9 Vintage Precious Moments Dolls - Worlds Children, Musical, Etc.Precious Moments-best Friends-flowers And Friendship Are Best When SharedPrecious Moments-couple-they Will Know Us By Our LovePrecious Moments #455822 "i Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"Precious Moments-angel Sitting In Clouds-a Loving Heart Is ForeverPrecious Moments-girl Showing Off Her Bling-you're A Gem Of A FriendPrecious Moments-mini Nativity-angel W/halo-hark The "harold" Angels SingPrecious Moments-girl Scout Daisies Have A Sharing Heart-rarePrecious Moments - The Warmth Of Christmas Comes From The Heart 690012Precious Moments Mixed Lot Of 21 Figurines. Mib.Vintage Precious Moments 1987 We Gather Together To Ask The Lords Blessing 6 Pc.Vintage Precious Moments Noah's Ark Figurine Group Of 8Precious Moments 204862 The Lord Is Our Chief Inspiration Chapel Exclusive NomrkPrecious MomentsGroup Of 3 Precious Moments FigurinesPrecious Moments **rare Special Limited Edition Figurine** Third In Set Of 3Precious Moments-boy Holding Bible-let His Words Guide YouPrecious Moments-boy/hot Rod Race Car-my Heart Races Only For YouPrecious Moments Rare Bumble Bee Style #795283 Holding Pot Of HoneyPrecious Moments-when I Count My Blessings I Count You Twice-girl ChalkboardI'll Never Tire Of You - Precious Moments, Country LanePrecious Moments-couple Photographing Themselves-you Capture My Heart-selfiePrecious Moments-girl/clam-the Great Pearl-bible Story-no MarkSugar Town Express Holiday Train Set!! Mib!!!Precious Moments Marching Ahead To Another 25 Years Of Precious Moments 108544Precious Moments Hallmark Keepsake Snow White 2007Precious Moments Sugar Town Ice Skating Set Of 11Ornaments Lot Of 20 Disney/ Looney Tunes/mickey Tree-rific Treasures And SesameDisney Precious Moments When You Wish Upon A Start Porcelain Figurine W Box