Film actor's estate earned $210m last year after record-setting jewellery and art auction

From beyond the grave Elizabeth Taylor has overtaken her close friend Michael Jackson to become the top earning dead celebrity. The estate of the actor, who died last year, earned $210m (£130m) in the past 12 months largely due to Christie's record-setting auction of her jewellery and art collection, according to Forbes' annual poll of the richest dead celebrities.

Taylor's auction, which included a Van Gogh that fetched $24.6m, helped her push Jackson into second place. Her fortunes were also boosted by sales of her perfume, White Diamond, which earned $75m in 2011.

With the sale behind her Taylor may struggle to keep her crown next year from Jackson. The King of Pop's fortunes appear to have risen since his death in 2009, not least because he is no longer around to spend it. His estate took in $145m, according to Forbes, more than any other artist. Much of the money came from his half share in the Sony/ATV publishing catalogue, whose artists include the Beatles and Lady Gaga.

The third slot in Forbes' poll went to another King, Elvis Presley. His estate suffered after the Viva Elvis show in Las Vegas closed but attendances at his home Graceland rose, helped by warm weather. One billionaire is betting his reign will continue. Investor Leon Black's Apollo Global Management bought CKX, the parent company of American Idol and the estates of Elvis and Muhammad Ali, last year for $509m. Black likes icons. He bought one of four versions of Edvard Munch's The Scream for $119m earlier this year.

The top three, all of whom were immortalised by Andy Warhol, are followed by Charles Schulz this year. The Peanuts comic strip creator made $37m in the past 12 months and his estate is set for another boost as Fox prepares a big screen movie from the team behind the hit Ice Age movies.

While Jackson looks set to reclaim his crown next year, 2013 could witness an unlikely fight between Charlie Brown, Taylor and Presley for the runner-up prize.

© Guardian News and Media 2012