Countless musicians barely make a penny until after their death. Tupac is a prime example because the bulk of his album sales came in after he passed away in 1996. Since our attention span is short, we lose interest in many famous people, and they have to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.
The celebrity world is known for chewing people up and making them into stars, only to be appreciated after they’ve passed on. Some of these stars never got to see the height of their fame, and they’re making more money than they did when they were alive.
Joan Rivers Hasn’t Cracked Any Top Lists, But She’s Up There
When Rivers passed away in 2014, she was worth about $250 million. In addition to her comedy albums, best-selling books, and countless television appearances, she made millions from marketing a line of trinkets on QVC.
Despite claiming money for the products, she hasn’t been able to crack the top-highest earning dead celebrity list. She only earned a small portion of the funds from QVC because she helped market the products. Still, her estate is worth millions.
Bruce Lee Is The GOAT Of Martial Arts Movies
By the time Lee was 18 years old, the martial arts instructor-turned actor had already appeared in 20 movies and taught private martial arts lessons for $275 an hour. In the sixties and seventies, there wasn’t a ton of diversity on TV.
Lee was able to pave the way for Asian actors by becoming a megastar in Hollywood. Since his death, he’s become a significant iconic influence as his image and brand continue to make millions.
Paul Walker And The Furious Payout
The actor struck gold when he was cast in The Fast and the Furious. After starring in five movies, Walker’s worth was around the $25 million mark. He’s come a long way since his appearance in Tammy and the T-Rex.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Walker passed away at 40 years old. His money was passed down to his daughter, Meadow, and was rewarded $10 million after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche.
Coming up: the story behind Whitey Houston’s estate.
James Dean Will Forever Be An Icon For Classic Hollywood
One of the most iconic actors of classic Hollywood became a legend thanks to A Rebel Without A Cause. The film came out in 1955 after Dean died in a car accident at 24 years old. He only starred in two other movies, East of Eden and Giant, but both flicks solidified the actor as an iconic brooding heartthrob.
Dean’s estate continues to make money to this day, with his image on various Dolce & Gabbana apparel.
Marilyn Monroe Is Still Relevant Today
At one point, she was the biggest star in Hollywood. Her death is still one of the most debated celebrity deaths of all time. However, her unfortunate death only helped to launch her into a legend, and her estate says so.
Monroe rakes in millions every year and her image is owned and capitalized on by Authentic Brands Group. It’s been over 50 years since her passing, but she continues to be an icon and a brand more than any actress or woman.
Whitney Houston Is One Of The Best-Selling Female Musicians
She’s one of the best-selling artists of all-time. “I Will Always Love You” remains the best-selling single by a woman in music history, but Houston had a $100 million recording contract at the time of her death in 2012.
It was said that she had $29,000 in her bank account. However, after her death, her music sales sky-rocketed and various songs and albums sold a million copies in one day. According to Nielsen Music, Houston’s sales reached 3.7 million.
The next one ahead wasn’t just a successful actress, but a brilliant businesswoman too.
J.R.R. Tolkien Made A Legend Before It Hit The Big Screen
The English author penned numerous books, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Eventually, the books were made into movies, and the franchise grossed over $10 billion in worldwide sales.
Despite Tolkien’s passing in 1973, according to Forbes, his works brought in about $50 million from 2008 to 2009. One of the best British authors of all-time continues to be one of the top-earning dead celebrities.
Bettie Page Was Almost Forgotten About
The Queen of Pinups did more than pose for the camera. While she was a big celebrity, she disappeared from the spotlight and was almost forgotten. She would appear in the seventies after entering a mental asylum after stabbing her landlord.
However, Page never made money off her photoshoots until Hugh Hefner stepped in and got her representation in the nineties. She saw royalties from her work for $7.5 million in 2011, three years after her passing.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Marketing Game Is On Point
One of the most beautiful women in the world was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The Academy Award-winning actress stopped making movies in the nineties but passed away in 2011. After her death, she became the highest-earning celebrity dead or alive.
In 2012, Taylor made $45 million more than Oprah, the highest-paid living star. Taylor continues to make money off her White Diamonds perfume sales and residuals from her films too.
Still on the way, a Beatles legend!
An icon for decades, David Bowie will always be appreciated by his fans and those close around him. His album, Blackstar, was released two days after his death, but it saw more sales than any of his past records.
Not only did the album generate a ton of buzz, but Bowie’s songs went up on Spotify and Billboard. In 2017, Bowie was ranked number 11 on Forbes’ top-earning dead celebrities list with $9.5 million.
Albert Einstein Rules
Einstein’s wild-haired image is recognized around the world, all thanks to posthumous licensing. Outside of the t-shirts and posters on every college campus, Salesforce recently paid a lot of money to license Einstein’s brand for its venture of artificial intelligence.
Disney continues to spend heavily to use his name for the infamous Baby Einstein line too. As a result of all of this, in 2016, Forbes estimated a profit of $11.5 million alone.
John Lennon Continues To Bring In Money
Beatles fans mourned after John Lennon was assassinated on December 8, 1980. Lennon’s music continues to live on as it makes a boatload of money. It’s been said that the Lennon estate is worth around $800 million.
That’s about the same as Paul McCartney’s net worth as well. Lennon has been on Forbes’ highest-paid earning dead celebrity list for decades. The musician’s image and royalties come in around $12 million every year in earnings.
One of the most famous reggae musicians is coming up soon.
Dr. Seuss Remains A Beloved Children’s Author
Theodore Geisel was better known as Dr. Seuss.From Green Eggs and Ham to The Cat In The Hat, his books have sold over 650 million copies, 450 million of those coming after his death.
His books have since been adapted into profitable films, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey. Interestingly enough, the film adaption is surprisingly one of the highest grossing Christmas films. It accumulated nearly $260 million at the box office.
Prince Might Have Planned It Out
At the time of his death, Prince was worth around $300 million, and the net worth of his estate went up because he had a secret trove of unreleased music that could be sold for a pretty good payday.
The estate has yet to cash in on the late musician’s music, but they could potentially be sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of music. Maybe he wanted to preserve his legacy instead of the quick cash, but we’ll never know.
Bob Marley’s Licensing Was A Big Factor To Making Money Today
It’s no surprise that the Reggae artist’s net worth hovers around the $130 million mark. Marley’s estate makes millions every year from the countless college students who buy his poster for their dorm rooms.
Outside of that, the icon rakes in millions every year due to merchandise and licensing deals. Since Legend was released in 1984, it’s sold more than 250,000 copies every single year. Marley’s brand is a money-making machine, that’s for sure.
The man responsible for Charlie Brown is up ahead shortly.
Tom Petty’s Passing Was A Heartbreaker
Petty’s popularity lasted for over 40 years, with numerous hit songs and over 60 million album sales. His solo career turned out to be short-lived, after which he reunited with the Heartbreakers in 1991.
Petty’s death on October 2, 2017, flipped fans upside down. The Florida native has a net worth of $95 million, and the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Famer is one of the highest-selling artists of all time.
Elvis Is Making Far More Today
Ever since his death in 1977, the King of Rock N’ Roll rakes millions from the grave. At the time of his death, Elvis was worth $5 million, but he left $20 million for his daughter and ex-wife, Priscilla Presley. Today, his net worth is about $300 million.
In 2017, he ranked in the top five for Forbes’ list of highest-earning dead celebrities with $55 million. He makes so much money due to residuals from his movies and ticket sales at Graceland.
Charles Schulz Is The Man Behind The Peanuts Gang’s Success
The man behind Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang receives ongoing paydays thanks to licensing his famous characters. Not only have the characters been favorites for decades, but the licensing generates over $30 million per year. All of the characters even have a large international market too.
ABC’s longstanding contract to run the Peanuts holiday TV specials are a reason why Schulz remains as one of the highest-grossing deceased celebrities of all time.
Arnold Palmer Is The Best Golfer
Earning roughly $3.6 million in prize money was the life of Arnold Palmer. The golfer raked in millions by holding the most significant athlete partnership with Rolex. Not only that, but Palmer had lucrative deals with Cadillac and Hertz.
However, his biggest one came when he monetized his favorite drink combination and loaned its name to the Arizona Beverage Company. The infamous lemonade and iced tea combination generated $200 million in revenue in 2015.
Michael Jackson Is Still The King
It’s been years since Michael Jackson died. He has been making millions ever since his death in 2009 as he continues to top the list of highest-paid dead celebrities. One way the King of Pop has made money is his Halloween special on CBS.
Also, he broke the record for the most money that any celebrity, dead or alive, has made in one year in 2016. That year, he made $825,000,000 after half of the Sony/ATV catalog was sold.