Just hours after the Van Gogh Museum let the merchandise from their recently announced and highly secretive collaboration with Pokemon into the wild, shoppers ravenously emptied the museum shop, purchasing all the crossover gear they could carry, much of which, according to Forbes and USA Today, wound up being scalped.
The prize everyone was after seems to have been a limited edition ‘Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat’ trading card inspired by Van Gogh’s similarly titled self-portrait that was free with any purchase (while supplies lasted). That card is now selling for between $121 and more than $1,500 on eBay.
Videos of the gift shop scrum posted to YouTube show the madness that took over the release day. Shoppers fell over one another, their hands filled with posters and stuffed animals. Shouts of “stay in line” can be heard and someone, clearly frustrated, calls the event “a f**** joke.”
The announcement that a Pokémon x Van Gogh collaboration was to be released in mid-September came with a cryptic video posted to the official Pokémon YouTube channel. The promo featured two of the most popular Pokémon stars, Pikachu and Eevee, running through field of sunflowers on a sunny day in Netherlands, windmills visible in the hilly distance. Suddenly the digital crispness of the background, and the characters themselves, was replaced with Van Gogh’s signature heavy brushstrokes.
The smell of crossover merchandise filled the air. It’s a scent that has become increasingly common as institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art seek to become global brands instead of simply institutions.
According to Forbes, Pokémon made $11.6 billion in licensing last year. Add that to one of the most recognizable names and styles in art history: the event was destined for success. Still, no one expected such a chaotic release day. “The regrettable behavior of a small number of visitors was not anticipated,” the Van Gogh Museum told Forbes.
The collaboration put Pokémon characters in some of Van Gogh’s most celebrated works, Self-portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1887), Sunflowers (1889) and The Bedroom (1888). The museum, too, got into the spirit and offered special activities for visiting children above the age of six, including a scavenger hunt and a tutorial on how to draw Pikachu. Tote bags, prints, and jigsaw puzzles fleshed out the merchandise on offer.
The Pokémon Company apologized for the disastrous release on X (the social media site formerly known as Twitter) and noted that the company is “actively working on ways to provide more ‘Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat’ promo cards for fans shopping at Pokémon Center in the future.”
For now, purchases of Pokémon gear at the museum have been limited to one per person and the much-sought-after promo cards will only be available to children who complete the scavenger hunt. As Forbes pointed out, that would require a ticket to the museum, and tickets are sold out through October 21.