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    

God Bless Our Years Together, Precious Moments, 12440 - Members OnlyPrecious Moments 634778 "wishing You An Old Fashioned Christmas" 6 Figurines BoxPrecious Moments E2395 "come Let Us Adore Him" Nativity Set 11 Figurines In BoxGod Bless Our Years Together, Precious Moments, 12440 - Members OnlyPrecious Moments Two Section Wall Backdrop E-5644 Nativity Background FigurinePrecious Moments **very Rare** Girl With Puppies-$750v-rare One Hole Variety Vintage Precious Moments Pewter Nativity Set 4 Boxes Including Accessory SetsPrecious Moments Disney Cinderella Your Love Is A Perfect Fit 730004Precious Moments Goat Nativity Rare E-2364Precious Moments God Loveth A Cheerful Giver Rare Enesco Great Condition! 1977Precious Moments Disney Mickey Mouse Snowman There's Magic In Those Ears 690011Ring Those Christmas Bells Precious Moments, 525898 - AngelsPrecious Moments-angels In Chariot-extremely Rare-$365vPrecious Moments 2 Piece Nativity Wall Holiday Set E5644 No BoxPrecious Moments Nurse Statue 2004 'angels Of Mercy'1982 Precious Moments Nativity Set -mint!God Bless Our Years Together, Precious Moments, 12440 - Members OnlyPrecious Moments Disney Tinkerbell Always Reach For The Stars 720020Easter's On Its Way, Precious Moments, 521892Precious Moments-you Have A Special Place In My Heart- Rare Limited EditionBring The Little Ones To Jesus Precious Moments, 527556You Are My Favorite Star, Precious Monents, 527378 - ChristmasBlessings From Above, Precious Moments, 523747Precious Moments #11023 "from The Beginning" 25th Anniversary Edition Precious Moments~dream Maker~# 879630 ~heavenly Daze Series~ 2003~ Nib 3 Pc. Precious Moments Disney Dreams Really Do Come True Sleeping Beauty Aurora 640041Valentine Express - Snoopy - Danbury MintPrecious Moments-special Le-find Your Wings And FlyPrecious Moments-love Is Reflected In You-rare Le/10,000My Warmest Thoughts Are You, Precious Moments, 524085, FriendshipFriends Are Forever, Sew Bee It, Precious Moments 455903Group Lot Of 9 Enesco Precious Moments FigurnesPrecious Moments-touching Figurine-angel Driving Phillip To Heaven-sam's TributePrecious Moments Birthday TrainPrecious Moments-angel/lamb-my Peace I Give Unto TheePrecious Moments - Our Friendship Is Always In Bloom - Japanese Girl/kimono-1998Precious Moments Wizard Of Oz Music BoxPrecious Moments-girl/pumpkin-wonder-fall Day-rare!!Precious Moments Lot Of 4 Includes "remember We're In It Together"117800 Precious Moments Disney Mickey Mouse You're My Mouseketeer 4004157Precious Moments-getting Ready For Santa-cookies-hot Chocolate-reindeer SlippersPrecious Moments 1994 What The World Needs Is Love Figurine CollectiblesPrecious Moments Hands Build A House, Hearts Build A Home Housewarming Figurine Precious Moments "i'm Forever By Yourside"Precious Moments 4 Piece Nativity Accessories Houses E-2387 No BoxPrecious Moments Sugar Town- 15 Piece Ice Skating Set W/ Lighted Tree & HutPrecious Moments**rare**mermaid/shell/pearls-limited EditionPrecious Moments Disney Tinkerbell Make Every Day Magical Porcelain 4004159Precious Moments Annual Ornaments And Little People Lot Of 8Precious Moments Members Only Pieces - Lot Of 3 - Great Price!!!!!!!Bon Voyage, Precious Moments, 522201 Boy & Girl On MotorcycleFriends Never Drift Apart, Precious Moments, 100250Precious Moments-rare-12 Days Of Christmas Series - #5A Reflection Of His Love, Precious Moments, 522279Put On A Happy Face, Precious Moments, Pm822 Members OnlyI'll Play My Drum For Him, Precious Moments, E-2360 Nativity AdditionGod Cared Enough To Send His Best, Precious Moments, 524476 NativityPrecious Moments Love Is The Fountain Of Life 830017Only Love Can Make A Home, Precious Moments, Pm921 Members OnlySharing Our Winter Wonderland, Precious Moments, Show Piece 539988