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Pokémon merch causes chaos at Van Gogh museum, which will soon implement purchase limits

Scalpers have seemingly ruined the kickoff, again

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Snorlax laying in a bed in a Van Gogh style painting Image: The Pokémon Company/Van Gogh Museum
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Chaos descended on Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum as Pokémon fans and scalpers pushed and shoved their way to rare Pokémon merchandise. The Pokémon exhibition at the museum opened on Sept. 28, promising a special promo Pokémon card of Pikachu wearing Van Gogh’s iconic grey hat.

Beyond fans taking in the the surreal paintings — or should I say, post-impressionist — that put Pokémon into Van Gogh’s work, the Van Gogh Museum attracted people seemingly interested in buying up exclusive Pokémon merchandise to sell for high prices online. Videos of the gift shop, accessible only with a ticket, show crowds of people snatching up postcards, shirts, prints, and other items.

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A post shared by PM1 (@pm1.tcg)

“It was to put it simple, chaos,” pm1.tcg told Polygon via Instagram DM. “I could see it was going to go down that way so I decided to record it. I had to stop when I got elbowed in the face & people started grabbing me. I’m a fairly big guy at 6’4 but my girlfriend who was with me was completely shaken by it! By the time people had ransacked the stand I got a few bits and one guy was literally trying to take it out of my hands.”

The Pikachu promo card is already listed for hundreds on reselling websites like eBay. Other merch from the event, like tote bags, prints, and a Pikachu-dressed-as-Van-Gogh plush, are listed there, too. Several of these items, however, will be available officially on the Pokémon Center website and the Van Gogh Museum website, limited to one piece per product for each customer.

For in-person visitors, a Van Gogh Museum representative said it’s changing its policy to do the same — limit purchases to one per person. The initial reaction, they said, was “very positive,” but the situation in the gift shop wasn’t ideal:

It’s very exciting to finally share our collaboration with Pokémon with the world. Initial reactions were very positive! Of course, the situation shown in the video’s [sic] isn’t how we would like it to be. The collaboration with Pokémon has been carefully prepared. The safety of our visitors and staff is always our priority. However, there may be unforeseen situations that we cannot anticipate. In such cases, we act swiftly. After all, we are accustomed to welcoming a large and diverse audience every day and providing them with a safe and enjoyable visit. From tomorrow we [will] limit the sales to one piece per product per customer, in our web shop and museum shop. Products are subject to availability.

The Pokémon Company has not responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

Update (Sept. 29): On Friday, The Pokémon Company released a statement via X. “Due to overwhelming demand, all our products from this collection have sold out,” the statement read. “We understand this is disappointing to many who were looking to our official email and social media channels for guidance on how and when to purchase.”

Instagram user pm1.tcg also responded to Polygon’s request for comment. The story has been updated with this new information.