Jan. 8, 2015 would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday, had he not died in 1977. Elvis Presley fans remain as devoted as ever to the singer and his music. There’s no doubt that Elvis was a central cultural figure of the 20th century, challenging norms and shaking things up with his unique musical style, risque performances and good looks.
His music, acting and other business endeavors also made him rich, and everything he made or touched is still highly prized and valuable to this day. To honor Elvis Presley, we take a look at the star’s financial legacy — how much the King made during his life, the years after and what he’s worth today.
Elvis Presley’s Fortune Worth $400 Million Today
Elvis Presley paid just $4 ($35 in today’s dollars) to cut his first demo at age 18 in 1953, according to Forbes. From this humble initial investment, Elvis launched his music career with the help of manager Thomas A. Parker and soon became a megastar. In his rocket to stardom, Elvis racked up a total of 18 No. 1 hits and starred in numerous movies, raking in millions.
By his mid-20s, Elvis was making $5 million a year (about $40 million in today’s dollars) even in years when he didn’t tour and made no personal appearances. That’s as much as today’s top earners in music pull in; Taylor Swift made $39.7 million in 2013, making her the highest-paid musician that year, according to Billboard.
An estimate by Daily Mail puts Elvis’ earnings during his lifetime at around $100 million, which would be around $400 million today. When he died at the age of 42, he had about $5 million in the bank (about $20.5 million today), according to Forbes.
Elvis’ Estate Earned $55 Million in 2012
Years later, Elvis continues to earn big bucks through music sales, licensing, royalties, and other income on his music and intellectual property. Presley’s intellectual property rights last switched hands in 2013, when they were sold to Authentic Brands for a steep $125 million, as reported by Billboard. The investment was likely a smart move for the firm — in 2012 Elvis’ estate earned $55 million, according to Forbes, second only to Michael Jackson in its list of top-earning dead celebrities.
Elvis merchandise and memorabilia also continues to be a booming business, with demand continuing to grow.
“Elvis is a musical icon and personality that continues to fascinate,” said Richard Austin, senior vice president at Sotheby’s auction house, which recently sold Elvis’ iconic peacock jumpsuit for $245,000. “He’s become a brand that means many things to many people and what they see in him transcends borders. It is quite telling that his estate has earned more money since his death than what he earned while recording and performing.”
Most recently it was announced that Elvis’ private jets, “Lisa Marie” and “Hound Dog II,” are set to be auctioned off. The jets are highly customized with many personal touches picked out by the King himself and are expected to sell for $10 million to $15 million, reports Daily Finance.
Related: How to Minimize Your Estate Tax
Photo credit: Retrogasm