~~ORIGINAL TEXT can be found here: http://www.countryliving.com/shopping/antiques/a36587/precious-moments-facts/ ~~
After production began in 1978, Precious Moments took the gift-giving industry by storm. With a design for every occasion, collecting each teardrop-eyed figurine became a cultural phenomenon. And today, these cuties still make our heart sing. But they’re not just an adorable face — here’s what you might not know about these collectibles:
1. The marking on the bottom of your figurine means something.
Every Precious Moments figurine created after 1981 has a marking on the bottom that indicates its production year. For example, there is a triangle printed on the bottom of each 1981 figurine, and a chapel on each one from 2014. If you want to check when your Precious Moments were made, a full list of symbols can be found here. Many are religious markings, since the creator, Sam Butcher, used his art to express his personal Christian faith.
2. Each year, certain designs are retired — and that could make their value shoot up.
Approximately 25 to 40 designs are created each year and 12 to 20 are retired. Get them before they’re gone because once they are, many designs instantly become more valuable. In some instances, retired designs have come back into production in response to vocal customers’ pleas. This one, which is meant to comfort parents whose children have passed away, was originally retired in 2007 and is now back on shelves.
3. Collectors say “God Loveth A Cheerful Giver” is the most valuable design.
Want one? You’re going to have to pony up. Collectors say its worth anywhere between $300 and $600 (and a quick eBay search concurs). The design is one of the “Original 21” — the first collection of Precious Moments figurines ever produced, which hardcore collectors go crazy over. This particular design, a girl giving away free puppies, was retired in 1981.
4. Only one of the “Original 21” is still available.
“Love One Another” was the first drawing every made by Sam Butcher. It was inspired by his daughter Tammy sitting on a stump with her uncle. The figurine is available for purchase here (and it’s super sweet!).
5. There is a seriously elaborate Precious Moments attraction inspired by the Sistine Chapel.
Sam Butcher hardly just crafted cute figurines. He also created the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri. Inspired by Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Butcher designed and painted over 5,000 square feet of murals inside, all featuring Precious Moments characters. And yes, it’s exactly as amazing as it sounds.
There are several “Chapel Exclusive” figurines that can only be purchased in the gift shop. If you’re looking for a unique road trip stop, the chapel and park are open to visitors year round.
6. At the height of its popularity, the Precious Moments Collectors Club had over 500,000 members.
The club let people track their collection online, offered exclusive membership figurines and sent a quarterly Precious Moments magazine. Proving that the PM craze is mostly over, today the club only has 30,000 members.
7. In 1998, the Chicago Tribune reported that more than 2 million wedding cakes had been topped with Precious Moments bride and groom figurines.
They even have Disney-themed wedding toppers, if you need a double-dose of adorableness on your cake.
8. The company made animated, seasonal television specials.
Anyone remember curling up on the couch to watch one? All of the shows had religious themes and were released around Christian holidays. The first, Timmy’s Gift, was a 1991 Christmas Special in which a young boy follows a star to the newborn Jesus.
9. Limited editions will cost you a pretty penny.
Limited edition figurines are available for a short amount of time and generally only 3,000 copies of the design are made. They typically cost between $150 and $250, although one is currently for sale for $975. Better start saving!
10. A limited edition figurine was created to honor a Missouri teen who died in 2010.
Only 1,200 “I Believe” figurines were made and they could only be purchased at a collectibles store in her hometown of Shelbina. Her family hoped the figurines would serve as a reminder of the lives touched by the 17-year-old girl.
11. In 2013, the family of a Missouri woman donated her 2,000-piece Precious Moments collection to a cancer organization after her death.
The Breast Cancer Organization of the Ozarks, who received the donation, estimated that it could be worth $100,000.