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    

Mixed Lot Of 18 Precious Moments Figurines Ornaments Christmas Nativity BirthdayPrecious Moments €Many Moons In Same Canoe, Blessum You, Precious Moments, 520772 - Bow & ArrowMixed Lot Of 12 Precious Moments Figurines & Ornaments Birthday Christmas XmasPrecious Moments Figurine Disney "follow Your Heart" 640042- New In Box BellePrecious Moments God Loveth A Cheerful Giver RetiredPrecious Moments-mint In Boxes Lighted "noah's Ark" Two By Two 1992 +9 FigurinesPrecious Moments-disney-minnie Mouse-you Are A ClassicPrecious Moments-disney Showcase-snow White And FriendsPrecious Moments 4 Piece Nativity Set E-2387 Set Has 3 Buildings And A Palm TreeLot Of 11 Precious Moments Friendship Love Limited Editions 325481 261378 12459 Precious Moments-disney-minnie And Friend On Tricycle-always Room For A FriendPrecious Moments-disney's Pinocchio-jiminy Cricket-reach For The StarsPrecious Moments Very Rare "flight Into Egypt" 1998 Mint In Box Glasses MarkPrecious Moments-disney-snow White And Dopey-riding Off To A Fairytale EndingPrecious Moments-disney Showcase Collection-snow White/dwarfsPrecious Moments-disney-ariel-sebastian-flounder-little MermaidPrecious Moments-disney Showcase-beauty And The BeastGoing Home, Precious Moments, 525979 - Angel - G Clef1982 Precious Moments Come Let Us Adore Him Nativity Set Figures OnlyTwo Large Precious Moments 649929 Peace In The Valley & 325503 Marvelous GraceLot Of 6 Precious Moments Mom Grandpa Fujioka Baby Love Limited Editions GreatPrecious Moments Rare "halo, And Merry Christmas" 1985 Mint In Box Dove MarkLot Of 12 Precious Moments Friendship Congratulation Birthday Series 549975 NicePrecious Moments Disney Ornament-girl Shopping W/minnie MousePrecious Moments God Loveth A Cheerful GiverPrecious Moments Rare Signed By Sam Butcher!!!! "15 Happy Years Together" 1992 Precious Moments Set Of (4) Four Seasons 7" Figures Mint In Boxes Star Mark Brotherly Love, Precious Moments, 100544 Thanksgiving - Olive BranchPrecious Moments-disney-mickey And Minnie Mouse-engagement-will You Marry MePrecious Moments-disney-mickey And Friend On Tricycle-always Room For A FriendPrecious Moments-disney-cinderella-carousel-love Always Comes AroundPrecious Moments-mint In Boxes "sammy's Circus" 1993 +6 Figurines Trumpet MarkMixed Lot Of 10 Precious Moments 12165 Music Box Graduation Plate Figurines NiceLot Of 5 Precious Moments E-3119 E1379r 192368 E-2821 E-3116 Easter Seals GreatSet Of 13 Precious Moments Birthday Parade Train Precious Moment "our Love Will Never Be Endangered" #824119 Very Rare!!Precious Moments-rare Limited Edition-angel/baby-$125vPrecious Moments Ornaments Set 5 Pieces No Numbers Nativity Precious Moments-disney-beauty And The Beast-ice Skating Belle1991 (vessel) Precious Moments Bless You Two Wedding Figurine E-9255 Precious Moments Rare Sample 4003777 Yellow Skirt VersionPrecious Moments Sugar Town Schoolhouse Complete 6 Piece SetPrecious Moments - 29 PiecesPrecious Moments Sammy's CircusPrecious Moments Rare "good Lord Blessed Us Tenfold" 1987 Mint In Box Tree MarkPrecious Moments-turtle/frog/bird-so Happy To Be Together-rareThank You For Coming To My Ade, Precious Moments, E-5202 - Fish Precious Moments Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep 2005 New Out Of Box Great Cond.Precious Moments Ornament Set Of 3 Camel, Donkey, Cow E-2386 **cute** No BoxPrecious Moments Life Can Be A JunglePrecious Moments. Collector's Club. Lot Of 15 Members Only. Mint Condition! Precious Moments-thankful For My Family-parents-kids-petsPrecious Moments Sugar Town Skating Pond Complete 7 Piece SetPrecious Moments Rare "bon Voyage" Harley Pair 1989 Mint In Box Bow/arrow MarkPrecious Moments Rare "no Tears Past The Gate" 1986 Mint In Box Cedar Tree MarkPrecious Moments E2395 Come Let Us Adore Him (mini Nativity) Mark:hourglass Precious Moments **chapel Exclusive**fountain Of AngelsPrecious Moments *ornament* Couple On Motorcycle-our Love Goes The Distance-lePrecious Moments Bride And Groom. "sealed With A Kiss" Figurine. 1992.