The 2019 ESPYs - Show

The highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020

Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant top the list

Even though we try to show our appreciation for our favorite celebrities while they’re still here, once they pass, their popularity inevitably rises. While they aren’t earning that revenue themselves, that money can go on to help their spouses, kids, and other people in the family they wanted to make sure were supported once they were no longer here.

Certain celebrities who were huge earners just continue to bring in revenue once they die, like  Michael Jackson , who has been earning tens of millions of dollars every year for over a decade since his passing. Others, like  Kobe Bryant , were just taken from us this year, resulting in a huge sales spike for all of their merchandise and other memorabilia.

As 2020 comes to a close, Forbes compiled a list of all the top earners among dead celebrities this year. The compilation consists of both stars we lost years ago and some deaths we’re still getting used to.

Andy Warhol exhibition to open at Moscow's New Tretyakov Gallery©GettyImages

Coming in at Number 13 is Marilyn Monroe, who died of a drug overdose in 1962. Her image and name are used by nearly 100 brands globally, including Dolce & Gabbana, Zales and even Lego Group, which made Monroe $8 million in 2020.

Prince came in at Number 10 on the list, earning $10 million this year. That number includes the nearly 700,000 album equivalents he sold in 2020 in the United States alone. He passed away from a drug overdose in 2016.

Juice WRLD is a new entry on the list at Number 7 after being taken from us too soon at the end of 2019. The 21-year-old rapper died of a drug overdose last year, going on to earn $15 million in 2020 from the sales of his music including his third album, Legends Never Die, which topped the Billboard charts after being published posthumously.

2018 Baby2Baby Gala Presented By Paul Mitchell - Red Carpet©GettyImages


Coming in at number 6 is Kobe Bryant, another legend who was taken from us way too soon. While the Lakers legend has always had dedicated fans, the adoration for him only increased following a tragic helicopter accident in January 2020 that killed him, his daughter Gianna, and 7 others. The icon’s autobiography sold more than 300,000 copies this year on top of merch and jersey sales, among other products.

The top slot goes to Michael Jackson, who died of an overdose in 2009. According to Forbes, Jackson’s Mijac Music catalog--which includes tunes by Elvis and Aretha Franklin, and a long-term deal with Sony--account for more than 70% of his earnings.

Other highest-paid late celebrities on the list include Dr. Seuss, Arnold Palmer, Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Freddie Mercury.


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