A few years ago when I heard that Albert Einstein, who died in 1955, made $18 million in one year after his death, I went to the “search the web” slot at the top of the screen to find out how a physicist could earn so much money after death.
Well, it’s no mystery.
Einstein earns his money the same way that John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and other celebrities earns theirs. The family copyrights the name and charges for the use of the name, his papers and other merchandise bearing his name — including coffee cups, T-shirts and sticker notes. At one point, Disney and McDonald’s marketed some of Einstein’s items.
This copyright procedure is followed by numerous families to keep revenue coming in after the death of a famous relative.
One of the more controversial cases in recent times involves the Martin Luther King Jr. family that received more than $700,000 for the use of the name, quotations and the image to be used in the making of a statue of Dr. King.
The listing I found of several big names on the internet included a total value of the name.
For example, Elvis Presley, $55 million; Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, $235 million; fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, $350 million; John Lennon, $15 million; Theodore Geisel of Dr. Seuss fame, $15 million; Michael Jackson, $90 million, and Charles Schultz, who drew Peanuts, $35 million.
Values fluctuate from year to year. And some just fall to nothing, as did Steve McQueen and Marilyn Monroe. But they could bounce back.
At one point during his career, Schultz had a billion-dollar revenue from Peanuts, including Broadway productions and television productions and commercials. His original comic strip is still running.
Auburn syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson wrote a most interesting book on Schultz, emphasizing his dilligence in making the strip as authentic as possible. For example, the music that waffled up from Schroeder’s piano was depicted in the actual music notes from Beethoven.
In this interesting world in which we live, Peanuts is worth more on the market than Einstein. Having read the book on Einstein, I think he would appreciate that point. Einstein often looked like a member of the Peanut’s gang as he walked across the Princeton campus wearing his signature cotton jersey while enjoying an ice cream cone.
Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com