The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam stopped giving out Pokémon cards inspired by the Dutch artist after fans of the game caused a frenzy in the gift shop and scalpers positioned themselves outside the building.
To obtain the special cards, which feature an image of Pikachu, the beloved mascot of the Pokémon universe, in a felt hat and painted in the style of Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 work “Self-Portrait With Grey Felt Hat,” fans must now go on eBay — where the card can cost as much as $620.
The cards were part of a collaboration between the museum and Pokémon Company International to celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary and recognize the link between van Gogh and Japanese art and culture. The museum also displayed paintings of Pokémon, including Pikachu and Snorlax, which were dispersed among van Gogh’s self portraits and famous sunflowers.
To get one of the special cards, ticket holders had to complete a scavenger hunt in the museum, walking by van Gogh classics as well as Pokémon-inspired pieces of art. Every person who completed the hunt received a card. Until Oct. 13, that is.
“As a result of recent incidents during which a small group of individuals created an undesirable situation,” Lisette van den Brink, on behalf of the museum, said by email, “we have had to make the difficult decision to no longer make the special Pikachu x Van Gogh Museum promo card available in the museum.”
The collaboration was aimed at attracting new audiences to the museum. But what the institution did not foresee was chaos.
Footage that circulated on social media showed a frenzy in the gift shop as people lined up to get the cards, and scalpers gathered outside the museum.
“It was chaotically busy,” said Nikki Meijer-Vosters, a lifelong Pokémon fan and collector who visited the museum recently and partook in the scavenger hunt with her husband and son. They each got a Pikachu card. She said that it was noticeable that the museum was full of people who were there only to see the Pokémon art and leave with a special card.
After she left the museum, Ms. Meijer-Vosters said, people outside offered her money for the cards. She refused their offers and instead took the cards home and placed them in a special folder with her collection of other Pikachu cards.
Demand for Pokémon trading cards has been on the rise in recent years, and it shot up during the pandemic.
The Van Gogh Museum is not the first institution to experience turmoil as a result of the cards. In 2021, Target temporarily suspended sales of the cards over a threat to the safety of its customers and workers.
Rare cards have sold for astronomical prices reaching into the hundreds of thousands. Last year, the YouTuber Logan Paul broke a record by spending more than $5 million on one.
The Pokémon card game, first released in 1996, is a strategy game that allows players to battle each other using the characters of the wider Pokémon franchise.
Pokémon — short for pocket monsters — catapulted back to popularity in 2016 with the release of Pokémon Go, a mobile game in which players catch and train characters using augmented reality. The game brought people outside and caused some chaos and security scares.
Ms. Meijer-Vosters, the Pokémon fan who left the museum with three cards, lives in the town of Hilvarenbeek in the southern part of the Netherlands. She said she had been a fan of Pokémon since she was a young child and started collecting the cards.
“Now, as an adult, I can pass it on to my little one,” she said. “There’s nothing better.”