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 Figurine Country Lane "nobody Likes To Be Dumped"Precious Moments Figurine Country Lane Wishing You A Moo-ie ChristmasPrecious Moments Figurine When You Play With Heart Music Is Art F0007 Dated 2004Precious Moments "love" Large Figurine 910058, Angels Playing InstrumentsVintage Precious Moments Figurine Wishing You A Season Filled With Joy Santa DogPrecious Moments Figurine Dream Maker Heavenly Daze Series 879630 Dated 2003 MibPrecious Moments "make A Joyful Noise" 102001 Rare Classic Signature CollectionPrecious Moments Tea Set - Our Friendship Hits The Spot1984 Precious Moments Peace On Earth Choir Singing Ornament E-5389 Cross MarkPrecious Moments "our Love Is Built On A Strong Foundation' 114017Precious Moments "what The World Needs Now" FigurinePrecious Moments Growing In Grace Age 5 Birthday Girl #136247 Cracked Egg 1994 Precious Moments "to A Special Dad" Miniature OrnamentPrecious Moments 524425 May Only Good Things Come Your WayPrecious Moments Ribbons - New Introduction Ribbons - PeachPrecious Moments Ribbons - Suspended Ribbons - Blue Precious Moments Ribbons - Retired Collectibles Ribbons - PinkPrecious Moments By Pmc Retired Collectibles Ribbons - WhitePrecious Moments Outdoor Figurine With Wheelbarrow Full Of VegetablesPrecious Moments "carry A Song In Your Heart" #104281Wishing You A Birthday Full Of Surprises Precious Moments 795313 Egg Symbol 2000Precious Moments "a Tub Full Of Love" Figurine W/box 19862006 Precious Moments Melamine Children's Cup Lot: 5 CupsPrecious Moments Sugar Town Nurse Jan Figurine MibPrecious Moments Sugar Town Aunt Bulah And Uncle Sam Figurine MibPrecious Moments Event Worth WaddingPrecious Moments "high Hopes" Figurine Butterfly Mark Boy With Kite 521957Precious Moments Figurine Walking By Faith E-3117 Dated 1979 MibPrecious Moments-boy & Girl On Seesaw-love Lifted MePrecious Moments Enesco 1999 "you're No. 1!" Gift Box FigurinePrecious Moments Mommy I Love You Blonde Girl #112143 Heart PristinePrecious Moments I Believe In The Old Rugged Cross #103632 Ship 1985 Pristine2000 Precious Moments 'birthday' FigurinePrecious Moments Growing In Grace Age 4 Birthday Girl #136239 Star 1994 PristinePrecious Moments "baby's 1st Christmas 1994" Porcelain Ornament Precious Moments "but Love Goes On Forever" E-0001 Unmarked Charter Member/$275Precious Moments 1998 Enesco Mom You've Given Me So Much 488046Precious Moments-girl And Kitty With Flowerpot-march Calendar Girl Series 101518Precious Moments "overflowing With Love" In Original Box (108523)1994 Precious Moments Collection December Tea Cup W/saucer SetPrecious Moments By Baby's First Christmas Ornament Enesco 112843 20031983 Precious Moments God Blessed Our Years Together... 10th Anniversary #e-2856The Lord's Prayer With Red Roses Around It PictureMib Retired Precious Moments 1983 Collector's Club Figurine Boy With Gavel Precious Moments-#bc-871 "hi Sugar!" Birthday Club 1987 Members Figurine-mousePrecious Moments Birthday Train Age 3 Pig With Party HatPrecious Moments Golf You Always Stand Behind Me 492140 FigurinePrecious Moments Daughter Coffee Mug 1994 Enesco Collector CupPrecious Moments Figurine Peace On EarthPrecious Moments FigurinePrecious Moments #e2852b Baby GirlPrecious Moments Personalized Mug Judy 1989 BoxedPrecious Moments "his Presence Is Felt In The Chapel" Ornament