Figurine collecting is passion for Marion hairdresser

Staff reporter

To say Amy Gillett of rural Lost Springs is a "collector" of Precious Moments figurines would be an understatement.

With 600 figurines to her name, Amy is more than a collector's collector. Precious Moments are her passion.

It all began innocently enough around 1985 when her mother asked Amy what she wanted for Christmas. Amy said she thought the Precious Moments tear-drop children figurines were cute — and, as Amy calls it, her "bad habit" began.

Amy likes the challenge of trying to find a figurine that has a flaw or some other marking that was not intended when it was produced.

Among her collection are Christmas figurines and nativity sets.

The tree in the living room of the Gillett home is adorned with porcelain Precious Moments ornaments which Amy has 100 in her collection.

At her salon, Unique Designs in downtown Marion, Amy has another Christmas tree with non-porcelain Precious Moments ornaments since hair spray and other hair products can damage the delicate porcelain.

The passion for Precious Moments is "catching" in Amy's family with younger sister, Shelly Wirtz, also an avid collector.

The siblings have been attending Precious Moments conventions together since 1988, with most being held at Carthage, Mo., where the Precious Moments Chapel is located.

Some years other family members have traveled with the two sisters to conventions. Amy has met the Precious Moments creator and artist Sam Butcher.

"My sister won a contest to eat breakfast with him three years ago," Amy said. Shelly didn't want to go so Amy went which made for a memorable event.

Many of the pieces in Amy's collection are gifts from family members and friends. She also uses cash that is given to her from customers.

So, what does husband Jim think about the collection?

"Jim didn't know about Precious Moments when we got married," Amy said with a smile, "but now he looks for certain ones that I want and is a lot more familiar with them."

In addition to collecting Christmas and nativity sets, Amy also enjoys collecting the Country Lane series which depicts rural living.

For Amy it's not the monetary value of the collection that keeps her interested. It's the meaning that each figurine expresses.

"That's what my mother looks at when she buys one for me," Amy said.

The figurines are based on Christian biblical scripture and expresses the importance of love, faith, hope, and kindness. Each figurine has a name and a meaningful saying which oftentimes is a play on words.

Each series is unique and new figurines are produced each year.

"Most of my best buys have been at auctions," Amy said, but she also purchases them from the Internet and swaps at the annual conventions.

In the Gillett home, the Precious Moments collection has a room of its own, with the collectibles stored in five cabinets and photographs on the walls taken at the Precious Moments Chapel in Missouri.

Each item is on an inventory list, partly for insurance purposes. Amy also uses the list when she goes to auctions so she knows which figurines she has and doesn't have.

Production of the figurines began in 1978 with more than 1,500 pieces produced. Approximately 20 figurines have been retired or suspended from productions at which time the company broke the molds. Those figurines hold more value.

Each figurine is numbered and depicts a special event or every day life of a child.

The nativity set has the traditional religious figures of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, but the figurines have child-like faces familiar with the Precious Moments product.

For Amy, her collection is more than porcelain and plastic. It's a part of her life and personality.

"It's not about the money or what value they could be," Amy said. "It's what each individual one means to me."