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    

Lot (26) Enesco 1978-95 Precious Moments Porcelain Figurines Musical Trinket BoxPrecious Moments E-5635 Wee Three Kings 1981 Nativity Addition W Box Set Of 3Lot Of 8 Precious Moments Figurines Original Boxes Nib Precious Moments "come Let Us Adore Him" Large Nativity 9 Piece Set W Orig> Box Lot Of 21 Precious Moments FigurinesPrecious Moments Growing In Grace Age 16 Blonde Figurine 136263 Mint In BoxPrecious Moments Large Nativity Addition-camel-retired "tree Mark* 1982 W BoxPrecious Moments E-5378 " Joy To The World " 1984 Nativity Addition W Orig. BoxLot Of Precious Moments Figurines With BoxesPrecious Moments Collection Of 15 Figurines - Box #4 - Vendors Welcome!Precious Moments "twogether We Can Move Mountains" 104279 Massive & Very RareRare Precious Moments Everybody Has A Part Japanese 3 Piece SetRare Precious Moments Figurines Bringing In Another Grrrreat YearLarge 2014 Precious Moments "love Is The Most Important Lesson" MibCollectible Disney Precious Moments Showcase Collection Precious Moments Sugar Town Enesco 456217 Post Office Set 1998 With BoxPrecious Moments Figurines 9pc. Lot 1982-1988Precious Moments "" 123028 Elvis Presley King Of Rock And RollPrecious Moments. "happily Ever After". Precious Moments Inspirational Lot - 8 Figurines Walking By Faith Nm, ...Precious Moments Wizard Of Oz New 2015 Hand Painted Resin All Four In BoxesPrecious Moments "by Grace We Have Communion With God" 325333c Huge & Very RareVintage Precious Moments Religious Figurines Lot Of 13 In Original BoxPrecious Moments "love Is Always With Us" Chapel Exclusive New! #890009 Rare!Precious Moments-huge-limited Edition-friends Make Life More FunPrecious Moments: Teacher...precious Work Of Art, Word Plaque" Teacher" #112134Lot Of 9 Precious Moments Membership Members Only Figurines BoxesPrecious Moments "la Quinceanera" 115871 Hispanic Girl On Her 15th Birthday/newPrecious Moments-huge-boy Dumps Girl Out Of Wheelbarrow-nobody Likes To B DumpedPrecious Moments Collectible From Walt Disney Showcase CollectionChicago Cubs Precious MomentsPrecious Moments (e) Lot Of 7 FigurinesEnesco Precious Moments " I Get A Kick Out Of You" 1983 Ceramic With Mark & BoxPrecious Moments Illuminated Tabletop Angel Christmas Tree Rare & Beautiful!!Mib Precious Moments Growing In Grace Age 15 BrunettePrecious Moments-hallmark Disney Showcase Exclusive Fig-pinocchio/jiminy CricketPrecious Moments "let Heaven And Nature Sing" E-2346 Hourglass Mark Mib Precious Moments-country Lane-boy And Rabbit Clipping Wool From Sheep2012 Disney Showcase Precious Moments Share The Gift Of Love Mib Tigger In Wagon2012 Disney Showcase Precious Moments Share The Gift Of Love Mib Roo In WagonPrecious Moments Set "you Will Always Be Mine" 795186 Gold Miner With Cz RingPrecious Moments *huge* Angels Ringing Bell-ring Those Christmas BellsPrecious Moments "you Are The Wind Beneath My Wings" 795267 Clown W/butterflyPrecious Moments-disney's-red-pixar's Car's Collection-fireman/firetruck/heroPrecious Moments-dejected Baseball Player-we All Need A Friend Thru Ruff TimesPrecious Moments-dad W/remote/dog/chips On Recliner-you Are My Favorite PastimePrecious Moments 1998 Girl Angel Statue 14in Precious Moments-indian Couple In Canoe **rare** Many Moons In Same CanoePrecious Moments **huge** 10 Puppies-limited To 1 Year Production *rare*Precious Moments **rare Ebay Exclusive Figurine** #1 Of Set Of 3Precious Moments-boy & Girl Kissing Under Mistletoe-blessings From AbovePrecious Moments **huge Le** A Perfect Display Of 15 Happy YearsMib Precious Moments Growing In Grace Age 10 BrunettePrecious Moments Birthday Train Age 11-two Turtles/giftPrecious Moments-beautiful Wedding Figurine-unity Candle-bride/groom-cake TopperMib Precious Moments Growing In Grace Age 9 BrunetteMib Precious Moments Growing In Grace Age 14 BrunettePrecious Moments-chapel Exclusive-heaven Must Have Sent YouMib Precious Moments Growing In Grace Age 12 BrunettePrecious Moments-you Brighten My Field Of Dreams-country Lane Scarecrow