Pennies from Heaven – the 5 highest earning deceased celebrities!

When we think of the highest-earning celebs or artists, we often just think of those still with us. The Beyonces and Cristiano Ronaldos of the world, as opposed to those who have passed on (usually upwards).

However there are plenty of deceased celebrities absolutely raking it in. At least, their most favored descendants and better halves certainly are.

Is is tasteless to dwell on such things? Possibly. Is it also highly intriguing? You betcha.

Some of the estates of dead celebs gross in excess of 100 million dollars a year – yes, a year. Not bad for doing literally nothing, which is what their descendants have done.

The staggering fortunes are being accrued in all kinds of ways – song royalties that keep on keeping on or perhaps new movie or TV deals from books and merchandise.

So, who could they be? Surely The Beatles and Elvis Presley? Perhaps Queen (the band) ?

Surprisingly, no.

Here are the 5 biggest earners from the big Walk of Fame in the sky.

5: Dr Seuss$35 million

Nonsensical rhymes and cats in hats really pays off. Theodor Geisel or Dr Seuss to his pals created some truly memorable children books such as The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Just before he passed away in 1991, Geisel urged his wife Audrey to get his work out into the world by whatever means possible.

Which she did, incredibly well. The Dr Seuss estate is now seriously benefitting from the explosion of streaming sites with heavyweights Netflix, Apple Plus, Disney, and Amazon all vying for rights to his books.

Who knew that green eggs and ham could be so profitable?

4: Charles Schulz – $40 million

The kids books kings reign supreme from up above. The creator of Peanuts and the much-loved Snoopy and Charlie Brown earns an estimated 40 million big ones for his estate each year.

Schulz’s comic strip generated serious income when it was syndicated in newspapers around the world – at its peak Peanuts was being printed daily in 21 languages.

With print media now pretty much a thing of the past, the bulk of the Schulz fortune comes in the form of theme parks, streaming deals and then there’s the merchandise. This is particularly notable in huge East Asia markets from Japan and South Korea.

There’s not much in this world that hasn’t been made with Snoopy or Charlie Brown on it. From socks and cups to snowboards, fishing rods and probably birth control kits – Snoopy is there, earning away.

3: Michael Jackson – $75 million

No surprises here, the ex King of Pop will continue to generate income long after our grandkids’ grandkids have grown old.

Jacko’s massive list of hits continues to be downloaded and streamed by fans of all ages around the world. In 2021 his songs were streamed approximately 1.3 billion times.

You could go to the most remote and distant caves of Central Asia and be still highly likely to hear “Billie Jean” or “Beat It” blasting away, like it or not.

Overplayed? Probably. Are his three children over it? Unlikely.

2: Prince – $120 million

We’re getting into the serious big bucks here. A big reason for Prince being so high on this list is that the funk/pop/rock genius inspired and influenced such a wide range of fans and artists. As a result his music is downloaded and streamed by a hugely diverse fan base.

Added to that is his estate has recently released previously unheard tracks and new versions of older hits. This new material will only add to the annual truckload of income that Minnesota’s favorite son continues to earn.

1: Roald Dahl – $520 million

What the?! You’d be excused for choking on your coffee at the highest earning dead celebrity. Firstly, huge respects to the wildly imaginative creator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl was a truly original storyteller who was able to blend the macabre with the fantastic.

However to be the wealthiest deceased artist is maybe a tad unexpected. Half a billion dollars is a jaw-dropping amount, which begs the question…why?


The streaming behemoth splashed out some $680 million on streaming rights to the extensive Dahl catalogue of yarns and tales. Running out of ideas and got some spare change? Why not tap into the largely untapped resources of one of Britain’s most revered authors.

Dahl’s children and his estate are the benefactors of this most golden of tickets.



  1. Unbelievable! I’d never have imagined these earnings would be so huge, but I guess I’d never thought about it. I guess we’ll all be checking out our famous ancestors now.

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