There is a sad truth for artists which is that they are often appreciated much more after they're gone than they were before they died. This is true for countless singers, painters, poets, actors, and writers--many of which barely made a penny off their work until after they died. Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Stieg Larsson may be famous names now but they all died before they saw their work appreciated. However, when it comes to Hollywood celebrities who are still making money from the grave many of them were famous and successful during their lifetime but many of them had become unappreciated over the years leading up to their deaths.
Because our attention span does not last very long, we lose interest in celebrities over time which is why many of them have to continuously reinvent themselves in order to stay relevant. However, not every celebrity can stay relevant throughout their entire career and they become washed up has-beens. Imagine being one of the biggest stars in the world one minute and then a forgotten, outdated fad the next. Hollywood is known for chewing up stars and spitting them out and many of the stars on this list were only appreciated again once they died. Some of these stars, however, never got the chance to see the height of their fame and are making more money dead than they ever did while they were alive. These celebrities are making so much money from the grave that it will make you jealous.
15 The King of Pop is Still the King
Even though Michael Jackson passed away in 2009, he has been making millions every year and has been on Forbes's list of the highest paid dead celebrities for five years now. How is he still raking in so much money from the grave? One way he's made money is the CBS special Michael Jackson’s Halloween which debuted this year and even featured an animated Jackson dancing to his music. The King of Pop broke a record for the most money that any celebrity, dead or alive, has made in one year in 2016 when he made $825,000,000 after his half of the Sony/ATV catalog was sold. In addition to all of this, eleven Michael Jackson albums have been released since his death eight years ago and it just goes to show that everyone wants to cash in on a celebrity death.
14 A Fast and Furious Life
Though Paul Walker had been working in Hollywood since he was a kid (appearing in shows such as Charles in Charge, Saved by the Bell, and The Young and the Restless) he struck gold when he was cast in The Fast and the Furious in 2001. After starring in five adrenaline-fueled movies and signed up for three more, he was worth about $25 million--he came a long way from the 1994 movie Tammy and the T-Rex in which Walker played Denise Richard's dead boyfriend whose brain gets implanted in a T-Rex. However, tragedy struck in 2013 when Walker was killed in a car crash at age 40. All of his money was passed down to his daughter, Meadow and was then awarded $10 million after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche. Though she got millions from the settlement, she said that the money was irrelevant and that she only hopes to hold the company responsible for the defects that killed her father.
13 David Bowie's Worth is Out of This World
David Bowie has been an icon for decades and while he was definitely appreciated as a legend in his lifetime, it's safe to say that his last album which was released just two days after his death would not have generated nearly as much money if he were still alive during its release. Sorry, but that's just the truth. Since 1991, when Nielsen Music started tracking point-of-sale music purchases electronically, his newest album Blackstar saw more sales than any of his other albums and debuted on multiple Billboard charts such as Top Album Sales and the Billboard 200. Not only did his album make him money but the rest of his music began to generate hundreds of thousands as well. According to Spotify, the streams of Bowie's songs had gone up 2,700 percent days after his death and according to Billboard, his music sales in the U.S. went up 5,000 percent. This year, he ranks at number 11 of Forbes' top-earning dead celebrities with $9.5 million.
12 She Died With $29k in the Bank
Whitney Houston had an incredibly successful career as one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Among her many achievements, she is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 songs, "I Will Always Love You" is still the best-selling single by a woman in music history, and she is the most awarded female act of all-time according to Guinness World Records. Houston once had a $100 million recording contract but when Houston died in 2012, she was said to only have $29,000 in her bank account. However, immediately after her death, her music sales went up and her various songs and albums sold about a million copies in one day. According to Nielsen Music, Houston's album sales reached 3.7 million only a week after her death. In order to give you an idea of how people try to make money off deceased celebrities, iTunes increased the price of all of Houston's songs from $0.99 to $1.29 the day after her death.
11 The Brand of Marilyn Monroe
It's true that Marilyn Monroe was, at one point, the biggest star in Hollywood but by the time the 50s had begun to wind down, she was in her thirties and there were new pretty young actresses, like Elizabeth Taylor, popping up all over Hollywood ready to dethrone her. Her death is still one of the most hotly debated celebrity deaths of all time and conspiracy theories abound on whether or not the government, the mob, or the Kennedy's had anything to do with it. However, her untimely death only helped to launch her into Hollywood legend and her estate rakes in millions every year and even her image and likeness are owned and capitalized on by Authentic Brands Group. Now that it's been over 50 years since her death, she is more of an icon and a brand than an actress or even a woman. For every person who owns some kind of merchandise with Marilyn Monroe's face on it, most of them probably haven't even seen Some Like it Hot or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Sad, isn't it?
10 Graceland is a Gold Mine
Elvis Presley passed away in 1977 (unless you believe all of the conspiracy theories out there) but over the past four decades, he has managed to rake in millions from the grave. At the time of his death, he was worth about $5 million which had about the same buying power as about $20 million which he left to his young daughter and his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, managed the estate until she turned 25. Today, on the 40th anniversary of his death, his net worth is estimated at about $300 million. This year, he also came in fourth on Forbes' list of highest-earning dead celebrities with $55 million. How does he manage to make so much postmortem cash? He makes millions every year due to the residuals from his various movies, the estimated 1 million albums sold annually, and ticket sales to Graceland which is a major tourist attraction.
9 Purple Rain Made it Rain
It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Prince passed away but his impact on the music industry will not soon be forgotten. At the time of his death, Prince was worth around $300 million and the net worth of his estate was only supposed to go up after his death considering that he had a secret trove of unreleased music that could be sold for a pretty penny. Though an album containing some of these secret songs was set to be released this year, it was mysteriously blocked in court by Prince's estate. Though the estate has yet to cash in on the late singer's music, they could potentially be sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of music. Maybe this is just one case in which those in charge of the deceased artist's estate aren't looking for a quick cash-grab and actually want to preserve his legacy. We may never know.
8 Bob Marley's Net Worth is Legend
Bob Marley graces Forbes' highest-earning dead celebrities almost every year and his net worth is about $130 million. How does he make so much money? Bob Marley's estate probably makes millions every year from the countless college students who bought a Bob Marley poster to put in their dorm room because they thought it made them seem cool. Maybe that's not entirely true. The reggae music icon rakes in millions every year due to merchandise and licensing deals (which include any kind of bags, shoes, collectables, posters, and even drinks that bear his name and image) and also to album sales. Since Marley's album Legend was released in 1984, it's sold more than 250,000 copies every single year. Bob Marley's brand is a money-making machine and it makes more money for his estate than most living artists have ever made in their lifetime.
7 The Net Worth of a Mad Diva
Joan Rivers made a career off of comedy, controversy, and, quite frankly, saying mean things about people behind their backs and to their face--but she made a lot of money doing it. When she passed away in 2014, she was worth about $250 million. Where did all of that money come from? In addition to her various comedy albums, 12 best-selling books, and countless television appearances, she also made millions from marketing a line of trinkets on QVC. Though she claimed to have sold billions of dollars worth of products on QVC, she hasn't quite been able to crack the top highest-earning dead celebrity list. She only saw a small portion of the money from QVC since all she really did was help market the products. Still, her estate is worth millions and her name and brand bring in millions every year.
6 He Sold More Albums After He Died Than When He Was Alive
After Tupac Shakur died tragically in 1996, the bulk of his album sales came in after he had passed away and seven of his 11 platinum albums were released posthumously. Thanks to album and merchandise sales (and that terrible new biopic All Eyez on Me), his estate also raked in some serious money when he (or his likeness, rather) made a cameo appearance at Coachella in holographic form in 2012. Yeah, that really happened. In 2007, the iconic rapper made more money from the grave than many artists who are still alive such as 50 Cent and Eminem. It's sad to think about but if he were still alive today, he probably wouldn't be making as much money as he is now from the grave. He is one of the prime examples of an artist being appreciated by the public and the media only after they're gone.
5 Try to Imagine Having This Much Money
It has been almost 40 years since John Lennon's tragic death but his music continues to live on and it also continues to make a lot of money. The Lennon estate is said to be worth around $800 million which is about the same as Paul McCartney's net worth and he's still alive! Lennon has been on Forbes' highest-earning dead celebrity list for decades and The Beatles' albums and his own solo albums sell hundreds of thousands of copies every year. Though album sales bring in money to his estate, Lennon's image and royalties are the big money maker and still bring in around $12 million every year in earnings. Not every talented star who passes away is guaranteed to make millions, it takes someone at the helm of the estate to make money off of the legacy and the brand of the deceased.
4 Fist of Cash
Bruce Lee only lived to be 32 years old but he definitely left an impression in a short amount of time. By the time he was 18 years old, he had already starred in 20 movies and in the 1960s, he actually taught private martial arts lessons for $275 an hour (that's $1,800 today). He starred in now-iconic films such as Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon and he also appeared in The Green Hornet as Kato and though the TV show was considered a bomb in the U.S., it was called The Kato Show in China. In the 60s and 70s, there wasn't a lot of diversity on TV in America and Lee helped to pave the way for Asian actors by becoming a mega star in Hollywood. Since he passed, he has only become more iconic and his image and likeness have become an incredibly lucrative brand that makes millions each year.
3 A Rebel, an Icon, and a Brand
James Dean is one of the most iconic actors of classic Hollywood and it's hard to believe that he managed to land himself in cinematic history after only about a year as a leading man. The movie that made him a Hollywood legend, A Rebel Without a Cause, was released in 1955 after he had died tragically in a car accident at age 24. He only starred in two other movies, East of Eden and Giant, which were released within about a year of each other and over the years, these three movies solidified him as the iconic brooding heartthrob that we know today. His early death helped to leave behind a legacy that emulated rebellion and youth--something that he never could have become he had lived well into his 80s like Marlon Brando. Dean's estate continues to make millions to this day, his image on various products such as Dolce & Gabbana apparel which can cost anywhere between $200 and $600 each.
2 She Still Makes a Fortune Off of White Diamonds
When Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011, she was 79, well past her prime, and addicted to substances. She was once known as the most beautiful woman in the world, the biggest star in Hollywood, and an Academy award-winning actress but she stopped making movies in the 90s after she appeared in The Flintstones and was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. She became less and less appreciated with every passing year and as her iconic beauty faded, so did the public's interest in her. However, after she passed away in 2011, she became the highest-earning celebrity, dead or alive, of 2012, making $45 million more than the highest-paid living celebrity, Oprah Winfrey. How did she do it? She still makes a fortune from the sales of her White Diamonds perfume sales and residuals from her films but most of the money came from the sales of her jewelry, artwork, and clothing which totaled about $184 million.
1 She Was Almost Forgotten Forever
Bettie Page is known as the Queen of Pinups but she did more than just pose for the camera in bikinis. Back when Page was the hottest bombshell around, bikinis weren't even a thing yet and she actually designed most of the ones she wore. However, while she was still a big celebrity, she disappeared from the spotlight and she was almost forgotten. She reappeared again in the 70s when she was committed to a mental asylum after she stabbed her landlord twenty times. While Page was committed, she began to become a sort of pop culture icon as a new generation discovered her work and recognized her talents. However, Page didn't make a penny off of any of her photoshoots, magazine covers, bikini designs, or merchandise until none other than Hugh Hefner stepped in and got her representation in the 90s. She finally began to see royalties from her work near the end of her life and in 2011, three years after she passed away, her estate made the Forbes annual list of top-earning dead celebrities and her estate is still making millions every single year.