Celebrities make millions and millions of dollars. They become world famous and international superstars. They have millions of adoring fans all over the world. Movie stars break box office records and musicians sell out arenas. Celebrities often find themselves under the harsh spotlight that can be both rewarding and stressful. Celebrities must deal with the difficulties of work while also dealing with stalkers, paparazzi and everyday problems. However, making millions of dollars might make that a little bit easier. Celebrities are considered a brand and will make money off of their name and celebrity status. That could be through selling merchandise or endorsing products. Some celebrities fizzle out and are forgotten with the rest of the celebrities. However, there are celebrities that will gain such enormous fame and fortune that they become legendary and iconic. In many cases these iconic celebs are still making millions of dollars even after they’ve died.
Some iconic celebrities have such a major impact and reach a huge global audience that they’re able to transcend time. Long after their deaths they are still selling movies, music, merchandise and memorabilia. Some celebrities make millions of dollars off of their work and merchandise years and even decades after their deaths. For some they achieve even greater fame well after their death. They remain in the public’s conscious and continue to gain fans of the newer generations. These celebrities are able to still make money and will likely never be forgotten. Here is a look at 15 Dead Celebrities Still Making Money.
15. Elizabeth Taylor – 1932-2011
The Iconic and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor is still raking in the cash even after her death. The two-time Academy Award winning Elizabeth Taylor had her first big break with the 1944 film National Velvet. She starred in several universally praised films, including A Place in the Sun, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra. The media constantly reported on her personal life and seven marriages. Her film career declined but she remained a fashion icon and major celebrity for the rest of her life. She was the first celebrity to launch her own fragrance line and had 11 different fragrances including the still popular White Diamonds. In fact, she made more money from her fragrance line than she did from her film career. She was also known for her expensive and massive private collection of jewelry. Her fragrance line continues to sell and makes her one of the wealthiest dead celebrities. She died on March 23, 2011 from heart failure at the age of 79. As of 2016, Forbes magazine estimates the annual earnings for the Taylor estate at $8 Million.
14. Steve McQueen – 1930-1980
“The King of Cool” Steve McQueen was a major movie star and box office draw in the 60s and 70s. He starred in several memorable films, such as The Sand Pebbles, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. He died at the age of 50 on November 30, 1980 due to complications from surgery. He had battled cancer for several years. Decades after his death, the estate of Steve McQueen continues to make money and is one of the richest dead celebrities. His estate limits the licensing of his image but that has not stopped the King of Cool from raking in millions of dollars. In 1998, Steve McQueen appeared in a commercial for the Ford Puma. Footage from the film Bullitt was used and he was digitally superimposed when driving the Ford Puma. In 2005, Ford used his image for the 2005 Mustang. Clothing line J. Barbour and Sons created a Steve McQueen collection as did Triumph Motorcycles. He was the sponsored ambassador for Heuer watches and famously wore one in the 1970 film Le Mans. Tag Heuer continues to use his image for their Monaco brand. As of 2016, Forbes estimated the annual earnings for the McQueen estate at $9 Million.
13. David Bowie – 1947-2016
The legendary David Bowie was one of the best selling solo artists during his time. Even after his death, he remains one of the most famous and iconic musicians selling albums, merchandise and memorabilia. He career has spawned several decades and his music has transcended time. He has released numerous universally critically and commercially acclaimed albums, including Young Americans, Station to Station and Heroes. He received widespread praise for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Additionally, he appeared in several films, including The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Prestige. He died on January 10, 2016 from liver cancer two days after the release of his final album Blackstar. He was 69 years old at the time of his death. The spike in sales for his final album helped him outsell both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson in 2016. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings for the Bowie Estate at $10.5 Million.
12. Bettie Page – 1923-2008
“Queen of Pinups” Bettie Page is still making millions from her incredibly hot pinups and image. Bettie Page is best known for her many outstanding pinups from the 50s. She posed for a plethora of photographers throughout the 1950s. She posed for Playboy and was “Miss January 1955”. She was known for her fierce sexuality, fashion sense, jet-black hair, beautiful blue eyes and her influential trademark bangs. By the 60s, she largely disappeared from the public and fell into obscurity. She struggled with depression and violent mood swings. She spent numerous years in a psychiatric facility after suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Her career had a sudden resurgence in the 1980s. She was recognized for her influence in fashion and modelling. She died on December 11, 2008 from natural causes at the age of 85. Her image and name continue to be used for merchandise, such as handbags, bridal wear and lingerie. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings for the Page Estate at $11 Million.
11. Albert Einstein – 1879-1955
Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist that is best known for developing the theory of relativity. With his wild hair, unique facial expression and pure brilliance he has been able to transcend time. He is credited with developing the popular mass-energy equation E=mc2. The equation has been declared “the world’s most famous equation”. In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. He published roughly 300 scientific papers and 150 non-scientific papers. Albert Einstein died on April 17, 1955 from natural causes at the age of 76. However, even after death he has a huge impact on society and the world. His work in physics is still held in high regard and the name “Einstein” is synonymous with genius. His estate has licensed his name and image that has helped keep him in popular culture. An Israeli tech company, Fourier Systems, uses his image and name for tablets. He has appeared in several posters and iconic t-shirts. As of 2016, Forbes estimated the annual earnings for the Einstein estate at $11.5 Million.
10. John Lennon – 1940-1980
The iconic John Lennon is widely regarded as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. He was a co-founder of one of the most popular bands in the history of music, The Beatles. The Beatles released several critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album and Abby Road. He eventually pursued a solo career and released numerous universally praised singles, including “Give Peace a Chance”, “Working Class Hero” and “Imagine”. Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon on December 8, 1980. Lennon was 40 at the time of his death. His shocking and tragic death shook up the world and left his fans in tears. However, the estate of Lennon has continued to make money off of his image, name and record sales. In 2012, his solo album sales in the U.S. were more than 14 Million. He was a writer, co-writer or performer for 25 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles have sold roughly 65 million albums in the last several decades. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings for the Lennon Estate to be $12 Million.
9. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel – 1904-1991
Dr. Seuss once wrote “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Perhaps he should have added the more money you’ll make when you’re dead and cold. Theodor Geisel was a writer, cartoonist and book publisher best known for his series of children’s books. He has published numerous classic children’s books, such as Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. He died on September 24, 1991 due to oral cancer at the age of 87. However, his legacy continues on and his iconic writing has transcended time. Even well after his death he continues to sell millions and millions of books for children. He wrote over 60 books that have been translated into 20 different languages and sold over 600 million copies. His work has been adapted several times, including a Broadway musical, four TV series and four feature films. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings of the Dr. Seuss estate at $20 Million.
8. Bob Marley – 1945-1981
Bob Marley is one of the best selling artists of all time and remains even after his death in the 80s. He is widely regarded as an icon and legend that has greatly influenced the reggae genre and music in general. His lyrics, musical style and spirituality touched audiences all over the world and have transcended time. He was known for his devotion to being a Rastafarian and was open about his marijuana use. He had his big breakthrough with his 1977 album Exodus. He has released several memorable singles that are critically and commercially acclaimed, such as “Jamming”, “One Love”, “Buffalo Solider” and “No Women, No Cry”. He died at the age of 36 on May 11, 1981 due to cancer. He continues to sell a plethora of universally praised records. However, the estate makes most of its money from the House of Marley audio products. Additionally, his name and image are used for merchandise, such as smoking paraphernalia, clothing and even Marley’s Mellow Mood beverages. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings of the Marley estate at $21 Million.
7. Prince – 1958-2016
The iconic Prince was so dedicated to his work that even after his death he continues to be one of the best selling solo artists of all time. He was known for his highly sexual lyrics, elaborate stage performances and unique fashion sense. He has released several critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999. He starred in the film Purple Rain and released a universally praised album of the same name. He has won a plethora of awards, including seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. Prince shockingly died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016 due to a fentanyl overdose. His tragic death sent shockwaves around the world as millions of fans mourned his passing. However, in 2016 he sold 2.5 million albums, which was more than any dead celebrity. At the time of his death he was grossing roughly $2 million per show on his tours. Also, his iconic home, Paisley Park, has been converted into a museum dedicated to the memory of Prince. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings of the Prince estate at $25 Million.
6. Elvis Presley – 1935-1977
“The King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley is a cultural icon that has transcended time with his groundbreaking music and stage presence. He’s widely regarded as a sex symbol and was highly controversial during his time. He has released several critically acclaimed singles, including “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Love Me Tender” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. Additionally, he starred in numerous films, such as Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock and Blue Hawaii. His influence and musical style still has an impact to this day. He had a history of drug and pill addiction that eventually contributed to his death. He died on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42 due to a heart attack. However, nearly 40 years after his death he continues to sell albums and rake in the cash. He sells roughly 1 million albums per year that are physical albums and not digital downloads. However, a majority of the money comes from tickets sales to the iconic Graceland. Graceland is the second most visited location after the White House. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings for the Presley estate at $27 Million.
5. Marilyn Monroe – 1926-1962
Marilyn Monroe is an iconic sex symbol that was best known for portraying “dumb blonde” characters. It should come as no surprise that this “dumb blonde” is still making millions of dollars even after her death. She first rose to fame as a pin up model but later moved into films. She starred in several memorable films, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bus Stop and The Seven Year Itch. She won a Golden Globe for her performance in the iconic film Some Like It Hot. She struggled with depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Her personal life was often under the harsh spotlight. She died tragically at the age of 36 on August 5, 1962 due to a barbiturate overdose. Her death sent shock waves around the world. However, even after death she continues to make money off of her name and image. Marilyn Monroe’s image and name are often featured on clothing, pursues, clocks and other merchandise. In 2015, Forbes listed her as the 6th richest dead celebrity with her estate estimated at $17 million. Her net worth has been listed at $27 million.
4. Arnold Palmer – 1929-2016
“The King” Arnold Palmer is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of Golf. During the 50s, he was considered a trailblazer and the first superstar in Golf of the television era. He was one of the most dominant players during the 1950s and 60s. He won 62 PGA Tour titles, the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement and the Masters from 1958 to 1964. Additionally, he appeared in several commercials, including, FedEx and Xarelto. He died on September 25, 2016 at the age of 87 due to heart disease. However, even in death he continues to be a dominant force in the world. There are roughly 500 Arnold Palmer branded stores in Asia. He is perhaps best known for inventing the Arnold Palmer drink. The drink consists of half sweet ice tea and half lemonade. The drink has been mass-produced since 2001 and continues to bring in money to the estate. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earnings for the Palmer estate at $40 Million.
3. Charles Schulz – 1922-2000
Charles Schulz was a cartoonist that was responsible for creating the iconic Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Long after his death Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang still bring in millions of dollars for the Schulz estate. Charles Schulz is best known for creating the comic strip Peanuts. The Peanuts comic strip was universally praised and critically acclaimed. The comic strip ran from October 2, 1950 to February 13, 2000. The success resulted in several TV specials, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The first feature film was the 1969 movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz died at the age of 77 on February 12, 2000 due to colon cancer. The final original Peanuts comic strip ran for the last time the following day. However, his estate benefits from the merchandise related to the Peanuts franchise. As of 2016, Forbes estimates the annual earning for the Schultz estate at $48 Million.
2. Muhammed Ali – 1942-2016
“The Greatest” Muhammed Ali is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers and pop culture figures of all time. The iconic Ali was known for his incredible skills, trash talking and unique personality. He was both inspiring and controversial at times. He won the WBA and WBC titles. In 1966, Ali refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War and was found guilty of draft evasion. He was stripped of his titles and had his boxing license revoked for four years. He had legendary fights with several top names, including Sonny Liston, Joe Fraizer and George Forman. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome. He died on June 2, 2016 at the age of 74 due to septic shock. His death shocked the world and millions of his fans. However, even after his death “The Greatest” continues to be great. Before his death, he launched his company GOAT (Greatest of all Time). He sold the company but retained 20%. His likeness and image are featured on clothing, iconic posters and artwork. At the time of his death his net worth was an estimated $80 Million.
1. Michael Jackson – 1958-2009
“The King of Pop” Michael Jackson is the richest dead celebrity in the world. He released several critically and commercially acclaimed albums, such as Bad, Dangerous and HIStory: Past, Present and Future. In 1982, he released the groundbreaking album Thriller, which is the best selling album of all time. He has won 13 Grammy awards and is the first artist to have a top ten single on the Billboard charts in five different decades with the most recent being in 2014. His personal life was surrounded in controversy and often made headlines. He shockingly died at the age of 50 on June 25, 2009 from an acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication. However, even in death Michael Jackson continues to break records and make money. In 1985, he purchased ATV Music publishing for $47.5 million. The purchase included the Beatles catalogue. Sony purchased the catalog from Jackson, which has generated a large amount of income to the Jackson estate. He continues to sell albums and merchandise. Since his death and for eight consecutive years the Jackson estate annual earnings has been over $100 million. As of 2016, Forbes magazine estimates annual gross earnings for the Jackson estate at $825 Million.