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Pokémon and Van Gogh collaboration causes scalping chaos

A recent promotional collaboration between Pokémon and the Van Gogh Museum lead to commotion both online and in person, as scalpers attempted to make a profit from reselling.

The Pokémon company has apologised for the chaos that ensued after launching a new collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Last week, the museum opened a new exhibit that showcased several depictions of famous Pokémon re-imagined within some of Van Gogh’s most famous works. As an artist, he took a particular interest in Japanese art and culture, and the Pokémon company wanted to celebrate this aspect of his creative process.

Limited edition merchandise was released alongside the exhibit. This included a promotional Pokémon card portraying Pikachu in the grey felt hat featured in one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits. It was available for museum visitors after completing a special activity sheet, and then online the following day.

The building in Amsterdam was immediately overwhelmed with a flood of customers fighting over products, all desperate to acquire cards and merchandise to resell online at much higher prices. Videos posted to X show a mad dash for items, similar to a Black Friday sale in the US.

Digitally, everything sold out instantly.

On the UK Pokémon Centre website, most items were gone before they’d officially dropped, as buyers altered links from the US site to gain access early. Cards could soon be found on resell platforms such as eBay for much higher prices, with many asking for upwards of $300 USD for the Pikachu card.

All the chaos prompted an official apology from the Pokémon company online, with a vague suggestion that more cards and products might become available again in the future. The promotional run with the Van Gogh Museum and Pokémon is meant to last until January 7th, 2024.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll see any restocking.

To anyone who’s been keeping up with the ever-growing speculation market of Pokémon trading cards, the feverish scramble to acquire these limited edition Pikachu cards will be unsurprising.

Influencers have been purchasing and selling individual cards for millions of dollars over the last few years, transforming a simple game franchise into a lucrative industry.

This surge in nostalgic content is spearheaded largely by older Gen Zers. Remakes, remasters, and sentimental marketing is all the rage as nineties and noughties children march steadily on into adulthood. Couple this with a boost in speculative markets and digital goods over the pandemic, and you’ve a recipe for untold scalping.

This hyper-expensive collectors resale market is a corner of the Pokémon franchise that Nintendo largely ignores, as it clashes with the child-orientated marketing around the official products and sales. The intense buying and reselling is unlikely to stop anytime soon, however, with premium cards now fetching upward of $4 million USD.

As Gen Z further matures and dominates consumer markets, expect more nostalgia bait, expensive toys from the nineties, and a resurgence of throwback products.