People remain fascinated and even fanatical over these deceased celebrities who have been making the most money in 2018, according to research from Forbes.

13. Bettie Page

Bettie Page
Gerard Van der Leun / Flickr
Bettie Page

2018 earnings: $7 million

With her signature fringe haircut and bangs, Bettie Page — who died in 2008 at the age of 85 — was one of the most successful pinup models of all time.

She walked away from her career at the height of her fame in the late 1950s, but she was celebrated as a cult figure late in her life, and today her image remains iconic.

An official Bettie Page store sells dresses, lingerie and swimsuits inspired by her look, and the company representing her estate also markets popular Bettie Page Halloween costumes.

12. Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali signing autographs, 1979
Scott Woodham Photography / Shutterstock
Muhammad Ali signing autographs, 1979

2018 earnings: $8 million

"The Greatest" makes this list because of a legal victory.

Ali's estate filed a $30 million lawsuit against Fox Broadcasting for using film clips of the legendary boxer in an ad to promote the 2017 Super Bowl. The two sides reached a settlement in July 2018, though the financial terms were not disclosed.

Ali died in 2016. His estate also has been making money through a deal with the luxury watch brand Tag Heuer, which sells commemorative timepieces honoring Ali.

11. XXXTentacion

XXXTentacion doing an interview with 103.5 The Beat in Miami, 2017
1035 TheBeat / YouTube
XXXTentacion doing an interview, 2017

2018 earnings: $11 million

The up-and-coming rapper, who was born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, had just a short career before he was fatally shot during a Florida robbery in June 2018.

He had made the 2017 XXL Freshman Class, a major accolade for new rappers.

Since his death, his music sales have broken records, and an unreleased music video dropped and went viral instantly. Eerily, it shows XXXTentacion attending his own funeral.

10. John Lennon

emka74 / Shutterstock
An image of John Lennon from the Lennon Wall in the Czech Republic

2018 earnings: $12 million

The former Beatle, who was tragically gunned down by a crazed fan in 1980, has been gone far longer than some of his fans have been alive.

Besides his work with the Fab Four, Lennon also left a substantial library of music recorded as a solo artist and with wife Yoko Ono, including the classic "Imagine" and the holiday perennial "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

It all adds up to impressive annual sales of nearly 2 million albums.

9. Prince

Prince in concert in 2011
Northfoto / Shutterstock
Prince in concert, 2011

2018 earnings: $13 million

Prince was a legend even before he died in April 2016, but his passing has reignited the purple passion in the hearts of fans around the world.

His record sales posthumously have been better than at some points during his career, and his estate is trying to meet the demand for more Prince product.

His heirs have been pulling unseen videos out of the vault, and Variety reported that family members struck a licensing deal with Sony to bring out thousands of unreleased songs.

8. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe in The Asphalt Jungle, 1950
Macfadden Publications / Wikimedia Commons
Marilyn Monroe in "The Asphalt Jungle," 1950

2018 earnings: $14 million

Monroe died under mysterious circumstances in 1962 — but the blonde bombshell never really went away.

She remains a Hollywood icon and a huge moneymaker. Companies around the world are still eager to use her likeness to sell T-shirts, notebooks and even Montblanc fountain pens, or put her face in commercials.

Monroe's estate is very vigilant about cracking down on companies that try to use the actress' image without paying for licensing rights.

7. Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner, 2006
s_bukley / Shutterstock
Hugh Hefner, 2006

2018 earnings: $15 million

"Hef" probably knew better than anyone how sex sells. According to multiple media sources, his personal net worth was more than $40 million when he died in the fall of 2017.

The Playboy founder is on this list because of the empire he left behind.

His family decided in the summer of 2018 to sell off their remaining piece of the company for $35 million. The $15 million in earnings is what Hefner's widow and children received upfront.

6. Dr. Seuss

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2004: a postage stamp printed in USA showing an image of Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss, circa 2004.
catwalker / Shutterstock
Dr. Seuss with the Cat in the Hat and other characters on a 2004 U.S. postage stamp

2018 earnings: $16 million

Dr. Seuss — the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel — died in 1991 at age 87 but remains a beloved and best-selling children's author to this day.

His works including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham continue to fill libraries and find new fans. As Dr. Seuss might put it, they love him from there to here, and from here to there.

Many Dr. Seuss books have been turned into movies and television specials that provide compensation for his estate. A new The Grinch movie was released just recently.

5. Bob Marley

Portrait of Bob Marley, Belarus
nodff / Shutterstock
Portrait of Bob Marley

2018 earnings: $23 million

Marley was a singer, known for reggae classics such as "Buffalo Soldier" and "Is This Love," but these days his estate makes more money by licensing his image than through his music.

Bob Marley has become a representation of a lifestyle, and his likeness has been used to market a wide variety of products. There's even an official Bob Marley brand of cannabis capitalizing on the legalization of marijuana in more places.

Marley was just 36 when he died in 1981.

4. Charles Schulz

HONG KONG, CHINA - NOV 20 : Snoopy's theme park located at the New Town Plaza Shopping Mall in Sha Tin on Nov 20, 2014, This is the first Snoopy's theme park in Asia.
GuoZhongHua / Shutterstock
Peanuts characters at a theme park in Hong Kong

2018 earnings: $34 million

Good grief, Charlie Brown, the world can't get enough of you!

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the other members of the Peanuts characters gang created by cartoonist Schulz — who died in 2000 at the age of 77 — remain very valuable characters.

In 2018, Sony paid $185 million for a piece of the Peanuts brand. The Schulz family also owns a chunk.

3. Arnold Palmer

Cans of Arnold Palmer Spiked
Cans of Arnold Palmer Spiked, made by MillerCoors

2018 earnings: $35 million

Before he died, Palmer was a golfing living legend, one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. But when future generations hear his name, they may think first of the beverage he created, mixing iced tea and lemonade.

The drink now a new twist: The company behind Coors Light is selling cans of "Arnold Palmer Spiked." MillerCoors says the product has quickly become a hit.

Arnold Palmer died in 2016 just a few weeks after his 87th birthday.

2. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley's album cover,
Thomas Hawk / Flickr
Elvis Presley on the cover of his album Tell Me Why

2018 earnings: $40 million

Elvis may have left the building, but his music and his popularity haven't gone anywhere.

His fans still have a burning love for the King of Rock 'n' Roll and are passing on his legacy to new generations more than 40 years he died at age 42. Tons of Presley's albums are still sold every year.

But most of the money is made by from the tourists who visit his Graceland mansion in Memphis and the growing entertainment complex that surrounds it.

1. Michael Jackson

The artist Michael Jackson performing his song
Casta03 / Wikimedia Commons
Michael Jackson performing on his Dangerous tour in 1992.

2018 earnings: $400 million

The King of Pop earned an estimated $2 billion (adjusted for inflation) during his career, and in death he keeps raking it in, Forbes says.

Thriller remains the best-selling album in the world, and there's also money from licensing deals. Plus, Jackson's estate recently made nearly $288 million by selling Sony its stake in EMI Music Publishing, which includes the rights to around 250 songs by the Beatles.

Jackson was 50 when he died in 2009.

About the Author

Richard Glunt

Richard Glunt

Freelance Contributor

Richard is a personal finance enthusiast and freelance contributor to MoneyWise. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife Eugene and two children Cole and Abby.

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