Scalpers made short work of flooding secondary markets such as eBay with copies of Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat, a promotional Pokémon Trading Card Game card gifted to attendees of a special Pokémon exhibit at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Auctions are already demanding hundreds of pounds (and US dollars) per copy, with related merchandise piling up at inflated price points.
Crowds of adults and opportunistic resellers brigaded the exhibit on its opening day, September 28th, wiping through the museum’s initial stock of cards and prompting an apology from The Pokémon Company later that day. The exhibit, which has been largely marketed to children and families, will receive more promotional cards soon to last through its January residence at the museum.
But scalpers will have already made their profit by that point, as evidenced by the glut of auctions and online listings. Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat can be found on popular platform eBay for as much as £1,500, though the average auction tends to settle around £150 in its plastic wrapping. Exhibit attendees who completed the scavenger hunt or purchased anything at the gift shop received a copy of the promo card for the price of admission - €20.
While not selling for quite as much, auction sites are also bursting at the seams with card sleeves, art prints, pens, playmats, deck boxes and other merchandise sold by the museum and The Pokémon Center as part of the cross-promotion. The iconic critters were added to some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, such as Snorlax lounging across The Bedroom or Sunflora bursting out of the vase at the centre of - you guessed it - Sunflowers.
The Van Gogh Museum’s website says more merchandise will be available “by mid-October”. Those who booked tickets before then will have to wait or swallow the well-above retail markups found on secondary markets. Disappointed fans and players mentioned online that The Pokémon Center could have done more to deter scalpers and rabid resellers from the beginning. Items purchased from The Pokémon Center’s webstores, which also awarded the promotional card, sold out within seconds.
Pokémon’s existent fan base have a historical penchant for quickly snatching up limited-edition collectibles, and the trading card game has been enjoying (though some may say suffering from) explosive popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when rare and highly valuable cards are involved. Watching videos of the manic press of bodies as adults snatch postcards, art prints and anything else within reach off the shelves of a museum gift shop leaves you wondering if The Pokémon Company could have prepared or prevented scalpers from immediately sucking the fun out of a cute event.