Have you seen that episode of The Simpsons where Ned, Homer’s next door neighbor and an avid collector of Humble figurines, gets fed up with the morally bankrupt populace of Springfield and moves to the fictional Humbleton, Pennsylvania? This is where figurines which depict large-eyed boys and girls in iconic Americana settings are produced and Ned thinks it will be perfect there. However, the residents of Humbleton are so uptight that even Ned doesn’t meet their moral standards and he moves back to Springfield.
Of course that show is parodying a widely known series of collectible porcelain bisque figurines called Precious Moments.
I have in my time bought a few of them for a girl I may have gone out with on Valentine’s day or a little girl’s birthday. Those young children with distinctive teardrop-shaped eyes, and often accompanied by inspirational messages have always been good gifts to give.
Eugene Freedman, the creator of the porcelain Precious Moments figurines has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 82.
Born in Philadelphia on March 9, 1925, Freedman grew up in Milwaukee and attended Northwestern University and California Institute of Technology. He received his Navy commission at Notre Dame University and was a Second World War veteran.
He began his career in the late 1940s as a salesman for a Milwaukee-based gift and novelty company. After a year, Freedman opened his own manufacturing and distribution company under the name Gene Freedman. Some time before 1978, Freedman met Sam Butcher at a Christian trade show in Los Angeles, California. Butcher is the artist behind the Precious Moments brand of characters. He recognized the potential of Samuel J. Butcher’s two-dimensional art on greeting cards as a successful series of porcelain figurines. Sculptors brought life to Butcher’s “children” as three dimensional figurines thanks to the idea thought out by Freedman.
In 1977, the porcelain figurines were introduced to US retailers, and officially started its retail career in 1978. Years passed and Precious Moments became one of the top porcelain collectible brand in the United States during the mid 1980s to 1990s.
The Precious Moments Collectors’ Club was founded in 1980, followed by the Precious Moments Fun Club in the 90s. In a 2004 report by the club headquarters, the cumulative membership was 100,000 individuals.
Under Freeman’s leadership, the company grew to achieve an international sales volume in excess of $500 million.
Freedman worked with Easter Seals, and served on the national board of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Freedman’s philanthropic endeavors earned him well-deserved recognition. He received the Gift for Life’s Chuck Yancy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 for his efforts to fight AIDS, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s Herbert Hoover Humanitarian award in 2004, and the Easter Seals National Philanthropist of the Year award in 2005. Freedman was also honored with the Congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and a special recognition award from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED), among many other awards.