Celebrities can earn truckloads of money, be it from their movies, commercial endorsements, music, ideas, and sometimes, even from their own iconic images. It is not surprising to see the likes of established stars like Oprah Winfrey and relative newcomers like Lady Gaga land on the list of highest earning celebrities.
But sometimes, even after their deaths, celebrities could still rake in millions of dollars for the family and estate they have left behind. The following is a list of the highest earning celebrities who have passed away.
15 Michael Jackson
The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson’s death because of an accidental overdose in 2009 caught us all by surprise. A lot of us feel that he had, to quote a song of his, gone too soon.
He still owns the biggest selling album of all time, Thriller, with sales reaching up to 110 million copies worldwide. As a matter of fact, three of the top 15 all time best selling albums belong to the Jacko. Millions of dollars are piled into the iconic singer’s yearly take even after his death, thereby adding to his already considerable $170 million estate.
14 Elvis Presley
Before Michael Jackson became the King of Pop, the world had already witnessed the King of Rock and Roll in Elvis Presley. Yes, Elvis of the dangerously swaying hips whose daughter was once married to Jackson himself. Talk about keeping it in the family!
The Heartbreak Hotel singer and actor died in 1977 of a heart attack. Die-hard fans, to this day, still lap up any Elvis-related merchandise however. Along with the earnings from his Graceland home, licensing for Elvis products has brought in an additional $55 million to his heirs.
13 Marilyn Monroe
She sang the sexiest happy birthday song to one of the most beloved presidents of the United States, the same man she was rumored to have had an affair with. Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at the young age of 36 because of an overdose. By leaving us in her prime, our view of Marilyn as a sexy vixen will never change. Rights to her iconic image are still hot property, with perfumes and cafes with the Marilyn Monroe brand being planned and peddled. Fifty years after she passed away, she is still earning $27 million, more than enough to buy her diamonds that were her best friends.
12 Charles Schulz
In 1950, Charles Schulz created Peanuts, the comic strip that brought us characters like Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy. Fast-forward to 2012, and these characters still have more than 1,200 licensing agreements with various companies. With the advent of the digital age, Peanuts is slowly being transformed into video games, e-books and online comics. Charlie Brown was such a loser in life and the baseball diamond, but Charles Schulz is a $25 million winner even in death.
11 John Lennon
Despite the acrimonious split, being a Beatle sure paid off. Just a couple of years ago, their albums were finally included in iTunes, resulting into sales amounting to the tenth best of any artist. Not bad for a group that disbanded in 1970. Licensing deals with Mont Blanc and Cisco and royalties from Cirque du Soleil also contributed to the $12 million Lennon has earned since his death in 1980.
10 Elizabeth Taylor
Glamour will never be the same again, not after Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011. But for her heirs, it’s as if she never really left. Her perfume line has brought in a hefty $12 million to the coffers. Her belongings will be auctioned off, with proceeds estimated to be around $30 million. And we’re not even talking about her image license yet.
9 Albert Einstein
Nerd rules! Albert Einstein still rakes in around $10 million for his image’s use in Disney, Chrysler, AJ Morgan and Nintendo. Hanging out with the smart kid will bring in the big bucks!
8 Theodor Geisel
Dr. Seuss never had it so good. Theodor Geisel named it after his mother’s maiden name, and this collection of books he authored is still packing it in. Geisel died in 1991, but a new book was recently discovered and published, meaning his heirs would most likely have more than the $9 million he has already earned after his death. His work is licensed with Hallmark, Leapfrog and Universal Studios.
7 Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in Woodstock in 1969 still gets attention. So does the rest of his songs, with one of it being used for an HP campaign, and more DVDs being released for fans of this great guitarist who died way too early. He still lives through his music, epitomized by $7 million in sales from 1970 until now.
6 Stieg Larsson
Author of The Millennium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson died before his books got published. With more than 40 million copies sold and translated into 44 languages, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has made its author The Guy with $7 million. There will be even more once all the film versions have wrapped up.
5 Steve McQueen
The car chase in Bullitt is as unforgettable as the star itself, Steve McQueen. The icon of cool, and until now, trendy brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger still make use of his image. UBS also utilizes the McQueen image, helping add to his $7 million in post-mortem earnings.
4 Richard Rodgers
To think that he no longer earns from his partnership with Hammerstein for songs from The King and I and The Sound of Music! Richard Rodgers’ heirs still earn for his songs like Blue Moon. Hard to be blue with $7 million, however!
3 George Harrison
The third most popular Beatle, he may have smaller earnings than Lennon. But with songs like Something and Here Comes the Sun, $6 million can hardly be described as small.
2 Bettie Page
The ultimate pin-up of the 1950s! A clothing line named after her has boosted earnings by $6 million after her death. Definitely everyone’s kind of girl!
1 Andy Warhol
Campbell has as much to be grateful to Andy Warhol as to the richness of its soup. His images still adorn a swimwear line and a jeans company. He showed everyone what it means to be a brand. He also showed us how to earn $6 million from it.