Top 10 Highest Earning Dead Celebrities

Script Written by Nathan Sharp. They may no longer be alive, but they still probably make more in one year than most of us will our entire lives! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Highest Earning Dead Celebrities. For this list, we’re looking at celebrities and famous people from any industry that have made a significant amount of money since their passing. Special thanks to our users for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script Written by Nathan Sharp.

Top 10 Highest Earning Dead Celebrities


They may no longer be alive, but they still probably make more in one year than most of us will our entire lives! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Highest Earning Dead Celebrities.

For this list, we’re looking at celebrities and famous people from any industry that have made a significant amount of money since their passing. These funds can come from licensing agreements, sales, or anything else that would generate a persistent income. We’re also taking a look at the lasting legacies they’ve left behind and how enduring their popularity has proven to be, so we aren’t simply ranking based on numbers alone.

#10: Albert Einstein

One of the few – if not the only – celebrity theoretical physicists of our time, Albert Einstein is known worldwide for his contributions to quantum theory and modern physics. His E=mc2 formula is the go-to equation for making yourself sound smart, and his face is instantly recognizable in photos, even outside the scientific community. His look earns him big bucks, as licensing company Corbis owns the rights to his name and image, so every t-shirt with the famous tongue pose or Baby Einstein sold goes towards his estate. His face reportedly earned him $10 million in 2012 alone.

#9: Bruce Lee

Known for elevating the martial arts film to an art and kick starting an intense interest for it in the West, Bruce Lee was a pop culture icon during the early 1970s. Before tragically dying in 1973 at only 32, Lee starred in numerous films, for which he is still being paid quite lucratively today. Over forty years after his death, his films are perhaps more popular now than they’ve ever been, and earned Lee up to $10 million in 2014. Now, let’s just pretend that we don’t all try to imitate his moves when we’re alone and in front of a mirror…

#8: Charles M. Schulz

The creative mind behind Charlie Brown and friends, Charles Schulz is commonly labeled as one of history’s most significant cartoonists. And every Christmas when you watch Charlie Brown pick out his pathetic tree, you’re watching a Sparky creation. Thanks to his Peanuts characters, the late Schulz is still making a fortune years after his death in 2000 through licensing and character rights. Between 2012-13, he brought in a reported $37 million, proving that the Peanuts will always be cool.

#7: Marilyn Monroe
The sex symbol of the ‘50s that needs no introduction, Marilyn Monroe’s image and movies have remained popular over fifty years after her death. After overdosing in 1962 at age 36, Monroe’s career obviously seemed over then. No one could’ve predicted that her popularity would continue and maybe even surpass her former glory. In 2012, she made about $10 million from her films, and her advertisements have since become renowned. Companies like Dior pay fat stacks for her likeness in commercials, which has kept Monroe’s estate comfortable all this time later. Maybe beauty isn’t fleeting, after all.

#6: Bob Marley

This legend of reggae, whose image was stuck on your college dorm wall for years, is still making vast sums of money for his universal and highly cherished music. In 2012 alone, Bob Marley brought in about $17 million from record sales and other business ventures with his name, which is more money than most musical artists would even dream of making while they are alive. After being taken from us in 1981 at age 36 by cancer, Marley is still uniting the world through his music, and is arguably more popular now than he has ever been, going to show how true artistic genius earns longevity and appreciation.

#5: Elizabeth Taylor

One of the most famous actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Liz Taylor was world renowned for her glamorous lifestyle, her famous blue eyes and her 8 marriages. She became the highest-earning deadcelebrity of 2012, earning a mind blowing $210 million. This was no doubt due to her death only one year earlier from congestive heart failure at the age of 79, which prompted the auctioning off of her possessions, increased sales of her perfume and more. As evidenced by the vast sums of money her passionate fans are spending, it’s clear that Taylor’s legacy will live on for a long, long time.

#4: John Lennon

Often considered one of the best singer-songwriters of all time, and arguably one of the most famous, John Lennon earned recognition for his personal life, solo career, and as a prominent member of The Beatles. Like band mate George Harrison, who has also sadly passed, Lennon’s music has earned him great sums of money after death. He reportedly earned $12 million in record sales in 2012, and his widow Yoko Ono is known for filing lawsuits to preserve his legacy. It’s unclear when, if ever, The Beatles will stop selling their music, so expect Lennon to be on richest dead celebrities lists for years to come.

#3: Kurt Cobain

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain changed music forever in the early ‘90s and helped to introduce grunge and teenage angst to mainstream audiences. Before his tragic suicide in April 1994, Cobain had already amassed a large following, which continues to grow today. In 2006, his widow Courtney Love sold a 25% stake in Nirvana’s music catalogue for $50 million. Then there are the royalties from songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that still get consistent airplay. While his audience spreads, it seems more tragic that he never realized what an influential figure he would become.

#2: Michael Jackson

The second spot goes to the King of Pop! Known as a child star for his work in the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson made headlines across the world for his early ‘80s solo work, including pumping out the highest-selling album of all time, Thriller. After tragically passing in 2009 from cardiac arrest, Jackson’s music once again skyrocketed in popularity. In fact, three years after his passing, he ended up earning $145 million thanks to his record sales, his 50% stake in the Sony/ATV publishing catalogue and more! It’s safe to say that the King reigns supreme, even in death.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Andy Warhol
$19 Million in 2006
- James Dean
$7 Million in 2014
- Steve McQueen
$8 Million in 2012
- Dr. Seuss
$9 Million in 2012

#1: Elvis Presley

And now, the King of Rock and Roll himself: Elvis Presley made waves with his upbeat, rocking music in the 1950s. With a popularity that even rivals The Beatles’, he has become the highest-selling solo artist in history, selling an estimated 600 million copies of his albums. Even now, more than thirty years after his death, Elvis’ music is still outselling even the hottest artists of today. In 2012, he earned $55 million thanks to his songs, income from tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show “Viva Elvis” and Graceland. But we guess that’s what happens when you change music history!

Do you agree with our list? Which late celebrity do you think earns the most? For more lucrative top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to Watchmojo.com.
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