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Jaqen gives her the coin and she can apparently give it to any Braavosi and say "valar morghulis" and that gets her where she needs to go, but why? Where do these coins come from and what do they indicate to a Braavosi?

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Yes, it was explained later on. Are you sure you want to be spoilered? –  TLP May 13 '14 at 19:35
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Unless you have the 6th book, I'm safe. –  coburne May 13 '14 at 19:40

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Yes, in the books,

Arya gives the coin to the captain of a ship from Braavos. The captain is astonished: "Valar dohaeris," he replied, touching his brow with two fingers. “Of course you shall have a cabin.”

and

The captain gives her free passage to Braavos, a cabin, and drops her off at the Faceless Men's temple. Also during the voyage many of the sailors and even the Captain ask her to learn and remember their names, and many seem afraid of her.

Based on this reaction, it seems the coin and saying are a custom that a Braavosi expects only from one of the Faceless Men, such as Jaqen H'ghar.

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A theory is that a Faceless Man cannot kill one of his previous friends, or a person they know from their life before the temple. Therefore, the Bravosi are eager to help Arya in order to befriend her, so if she is ordered to kill them further on, she won't be able to. That's why they ask her to remeber their names.

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IIRC, this is not just a theory but actually stated by the Faceless Men in one of Arya's chapters. –  Justin Ethier May 15 '14 at 19:52
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I've read so many theories, that I honestly cannot remember sometimes if I've read them in the books or on the forums :) –  Stefan Urziceanu May 16 '14 at 6:33
    
No worries, there's a lot going on in this series... –  Justin Ethier May 16 '14 at 13:22
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"I know this man, I cannot give him the gift" –  gowenfawr Aug 11 '14 at 15:57

Valar morghulis (all men must die) is the motto of the Many-Faced God and his followers which are assasins.

Spoiler for the TV series, already happened in the books:

The coin together with the quote allows Arya to get passage to Braavos and entrance into the temple of the Many-Faced God.

Source

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What's it mean though, does having a coin mean you're an associate of Jaqen's group? Apparently I can't hide spoilers in comments. Anybody noticed its kinda hard to talk about Game of Thrones w/o possible spoilers? We need a SciFiSpoilers.stackexchange. –  coburne May 13 '14 at 18:40
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Coins from Braavos and knowledge of High Valyrian and the quote are quite rare in Westeros. And together yes, they just mean that. –  Raidri May 13 '14 at 18:45
    
I suspect that "valar morghulis" can also be correctly translated to "everyone dies". –  Ernie Jan 28 at 0:55

A coin of significant value which allow holder to reach temple of faceless god and only there. Remember Arya first told the captain to take her to nights watch but captain refuses.

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The significance of the coin is that it is not really a "coin" at all... meaning a medium of exchange holding an intrinsic value. Instead it is a "recognition token" signifying membership in an elite and secretive assassin's guild. Think mafia hit-men crossed with ninjas and throw in some 007 and a little majick. Arya of course does not know any of this, she just thinks it's a worthless coin at first... and so the ship's captain must have been peeing himself while thinking... "THEY'RE USING LITTLE GIRLS NOW!!!"... because everyone now assumes that she's an assassin. The coin is iron because that is the lowest value metal... the value of the coin is explicitly NOT in the metal, but in the fact of the bearer holding it. We can presume that they are made by the Faceless Man organization and handed out as field equipment to operatives. Note that Jaqen had been searched and in chains when he first gave the coin to Arya. This tells us that the coin must be small, so that he could have kept it hidden from searchers. She first believes the coin to be very worn, which is why she cannot see the face of the portrait... but later realizes that it is not so worn after all, and the vagueness of the face is part of the design. This tells us that it must be a FACING portrait... because a profile remains recognizable even when badly worn. Shire Post Mint makes just such a coin under license with George R.R. Martin... and George carries them around to cons and movie sets and hands them out to people.

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