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History of Precious Moments

Precious Moments is a brand created by American artist Sam Butcher. His illustrations of children with distinctive teardrop-shaped eyes include messages of heartfelt endurance and inspiration. Products derived from these illustrations (by license) are called 'Precious Moments'. Christian themes appear throughout his work.

The flagship product of the brand is the 'Precious Moments Porcelain Bisque Figurines'. These have been sold since 1977.


Sam Butcher began drawing his now famous big-eyed children on cards and letters to friends and family. In the early 1970s he started the company Jonathan & David with his friend Bill Biel to sell his cards and posters. Initially sales were few and mainly localized, but their big break came at an annual Christian Booksellers Association Convention in Anaheim, California, when their tiny booth was filled with enthusiastic retailers wanting to order the new line. The crowd became so large that neighboring vendors came over to help them write orders. Shortly afterwards, they were noticed by Enesco Corporation.

There are many stories as to how exactly Sam Butcher met with Enesco Corporation and agreed to have his artwork converted into 3-dimensions but it is clear that Sam was approached by Eugene Friedman, then CEO and Chairman of Enesco Corporation, at a trade show. Over the course of several discussions, Gene managed to convince Sam to license his artwork to be produced as figurines by Japanese sculptor Yasuhei Fujioka. The first prototype figurine was based off the artwork titled "Love One Another".

By the fall of 1978, the first twenty-one original Precious Moments figurines were introduced to the market at a trade show in Chicago. The porcelain figurines were sold under the Jonathan & David name and the response was incredible. Demand grew rapidly for these figurines. Production expanded to bring more of Sam's designs to market and today there are over 1600 Precious Moments pieces available, including figurines, music boxes, thimbles, plates, ornaments, bells are more.

The Precious Moments Collectors' Club was founded in 1980, followed by the Precious Moments Fan Club in the 90s. In a 2004 report, the cumulative membership was 100,000 individuals.

During the mid 1980s Biel and Butcher dissolved Jonathan & David. Enesco took over the distributorship world wide from then on. Precious Moments had become one of the top porcelain collectible brands in the United States so Enesco decided to expand its business to Europe and Asia, but the difference in laws and cultures made it difficult. The "American-Christian" theme of Precious Moments was a hard sell.

In 1989, Butcher set up "Precious Moments, Inc.". It was established to cope with the growing demand for the brand and functioned primarily to manage its licenses and licensees.

Up until 1997, Enesco's sales for Precious Moments porcelain figurines continued to increase. The collectors' club also saw great increases in membership until then.

In 1997, Shuhei Fujioka, son of Yasuhei, created Precious Memory, Inc. as a porcelain specialty wholesale and retail company. With stores in Tokyo's Omote-Sando, Yokohama's Motomachi, and Kobe's Motomachi - the company promoted and sold Precious Moments porcelain figurines. The company also sold through mail order, catalog and an online retail site (something new in the late 1990s). Precious Memory's approach of selling the brand image, rather than the products themselves, was different from those of the previous distributors.

To promote this new endeavor, Enesco permitted Fujioka and Precious Memory to develop and market a series of "Japan Exclusive" Precious Moments. These products would depict inspirational cultural themes of Japan. Under this agreement, these "Japan Exclusive" products would be exclusive to Japan only for the first six months after its introduction and would then be available world-wide. Enesco retailers either did not know how to sell these products or did not even know that they existed and orders dwindled below minimum manufacturing efficiency. The series was suspended in 2005.

In 1998, Precious Moments Inc. delegated its copyright licensing function to United Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of E. W. Scripps. Between 1998 and 2005, through United Media, PMI licensed its property out to more than 150 manufacturers and vendors.

In July 2005 Precious Moments Inc. ended its business partnership and license arrangement with Enesco. Precious Moments Inc. became the distributor of its figurines and products, in place of Enesco, shipping products from its warehouses in Carthage, Missouri. The company's current functions are product design, marketing, and distribution, in addition to its original copyright delegation duties. Many organizational changes have recently taken place as Precious Moments Inc. tries to establish itself as a viable long-term giftware distribution company.

Samuel J Butcher

Samuel John Butcher was born shortly after midnight in Jackson, Michigan on January 1, 1939. He was the third of five children, growing up in a very poor family. The family moved to Redding, Northern California when Sam was young.

Sam spent much of his childhood either listening to bible stories or drawing and sketching under the dining room table; two themes that are intertwined throughout his entire life. At a very early age his artistic talents were recognized by family and friends, but being so poor drawing materials were not readily available.

Sam always had a deep interest in spiritual things and he painted scenes from the Bible, even from his earliest childhood. Then one night, in a country church, Sam asked Jesus to come into his heart. Since that night, he decided to only use his talent for the Lord.

With the encouragement of his mother, he pursued formal art training following his high school graduation. He won a scholarship to the College of Arts & Crafts in Berkeley. Sam married his college sweetheart and the young family moved back to Michigan where Sam took a job in the shipping department of the Child Evangelism Fellowship. His first position as a real artist came when CEF promoted Sam to the art department. Sam continued to grow spiritually and so did his desire to reach out to people with a message of God's love.

To convey his message, Sam began drawing the endearing teardrop-eyed children he called "Precious Moments" for family and friends. Then, for several years, Sam was seen on television as the story illustrator for the inspirational children's program, Tree Top House, using his artistic skills to help tell the story.

For many years Sam had dreamed of building a chapel where he could share his faith and spread the word of God with anyone who wished to visit. Sam's dream became a reality when he moved to Carthage, Missouri. There, he was finally able to build the chapel he had envisioned for so long, using his earnings from the Precious Moments line.

Today the Precious Moments Chapel is a theme park run by PMI. It is a stunning sight. Around every turn are murals, angels, stained glass, and other bits of Sam's artwork. The main attraction of the park is the "Fountain of Angels", designed by Sam Butcher himself. The indoor attraction can propel water up to 80 feet high in sync to music, lights, and visual effects. Two separate performances are held everyday from March through December.

The beautiful grounds that the Chapel stands on have been named Precious Moments Park. The land itself is owned by the Sam Butcher Foundation.

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