Michael Jackson's lucrative afterlife has just begun

Michael Jackson, the man they called "The King of Pop," worried he would end up dead like "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" Elvis Presley, the father of his ex-wife Lisa Marie. Jackson's worries are proving to be prophetic.

Already, the price of Jackson memorabilia is soaring. Pop culture expert Gary Sohmers, who also is an appraiser on "The Antiques Roadshow" told DailyFinance that he saw a reproduction of a Jackson autograph fetch $1,400. Jackson's actual autograph fetches about $400 to $800. Sohmers, a former music promoter who runs allcollectors.com, cautions would-be collectors against buying into Michael mania.
Settling Jackson's estate will be complex. Media reports indicate that the entertainer was $500 million dollars in debt when he died, despite having made $700 million as a performer over his career.

There's also the matter of what will happen to his three children. His mother Katherine's efforts to seek legal custody of the the kids, including "Blanket", who Jackson infamously dangled out of the window, are being opposed by Deborah Rowe, the mother of two of them.

Then there's the property. Jackson reportedly recorded 100 "secret songs" over the years. He also has the property from the Neverland Ranch, an auction of which Jackson canceled in April days before it was scheduled to occur. Julien's Auctions is selling a set of catalogs detailing items in the sale for $500. A phone call to Julien's to find out if the sale was rescheduled was not returned.

Probably Jackson's most valuable asset was his stake in a partnership that owned the publishing rights to more than 200 classic Beatles songs. He spent $47.5 million to buy the rights in 1985; now his share is worth more than $500 million, according to The New York Times. But selling the tunes won't mend the King of Pop's troubled finances all by itself, because he used the collection as collateral for $300 million in loans that still must be repaid.

Before he died, interest in Jackson collectibles was on the decline as fans voiced their disgust over the child molestation allegations against him. That, of course, has changed. Recent sales have been through the roof -- including $25,000 for a painting he did as a child of Micky Mouse. A crystal-studded shirt sold for $52,000, ahead of the $6,000 sales estimate, according to Sohmers.

Jackson has joined a pantheon of music dieties including Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley and John Lennon who will continue to interest collectors for generations to come. Jackson's money woes may be solved through smart licensing arrangements.

"He will make more money in his death than he did in his life," Sohmers said. "My 13-year-old got the opportunity to discover Michael Jackson."

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