There are plenty of success stories, in Hollywood or otherwise, that reach far beyond the passing of the celebrities they refer to. While it’s true that the deaths of the rich and famous gain more publicity than those of the Average Joe, who knew that these celebrities’ estates would continue to generate profit years after they were laid to rest?
1. Michael Jackson
By far one of the most valuable deceased stars in both the music industry and pop culture as a whole, Michael Jackson’s estate still profits hundreds of millions of dollars each and every year. As a matter of fact, over the course of 2016 alone, it was reported that Jackson’s legacy earned him a cool $825 million. These days, his estate is valued at approximately $1.5 billion. This includes his shares of the Sony/ATV Catalog, now worth $750 million, which contains the rights to music produced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and our next A-lister, Elvis Presley.
2. Elvis Presley
The death of the King of Rock N’ Roll in 1977 was a phenomenon that “rocked” North America. Even though Presley was already one of the wealthiest artists in music history by the time he died, his fabled property of Graceland, Tennessee still earns well over $32 million in tourism revenue every single year. That, coupled with record sales and merchandising in the decades since his passing, have kept the King’s reputation alive. Oh, un-huh!
3. Marilyn Monroe
Another top ranker when it comes to celebrity deaths has to go to Marilyn Monroe. Born Norma Gene Baker in 1926, the tragic story of Hollywood’s most infamous sex symbol has kept Monroe in the spotlight long after her passing in 1962. In fact, her estate, which was valued at only $370,000 at the time, earned around $27 million in 2011-2012, following the 50th anniversary of her death. And that’s not all. Even her possessions generate plenty of profit. During a 1999 estate auction, Mariah Carey bought Monroe’s baby grand piano for $662,500. In 2016, the sparkling dress that Monroe wore during her famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” performance for John F. Kennedy sold for a record $4.8 million to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not oddity museum chain.
4. J.R.R. Tolkien
When mentioning dead celebrities, we can’t forget about authors. Most notably, the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien. While there are other triple and quadruple initialed writers still living, such as George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling, not many of them have a larger fan base than the creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Back in 2015, a rare first edition of The Hobbit, with a handwritten Elvish inscription inside, sold at auction for a record-breaking 137,000 British Pounds. On top of that, Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the same names have grossed over $10 billion worldwide.
5. James Dean
One of the original Hollywood bad boys, James Dean is still earning money long after his tragic death in a car accident in 1955, at the age of 24. Being that he was a rising star and was so young at the time of his death, his signature is one of the rarest and most demanded of any celebrity, living or deceased, in pop culture history, valued at around $23,000. The licensing rights to his image alone earn his estate over $5 million a year.