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A comment an an answer of mine on another question made my wonder about the iron coins used by the Faceless Men, one of which was given by Jaqen H'ghar to Arya.

Was the iron coin given by Jaqen H'ghar to Arya regular Braavosi currency? Or were they a different kind, minted just by/for the Faceless Men as a mean to let them being recognized when they wanted to?

I've always assumed that the Faceless Men used their own coins, without any legal value and distinct for the regular Bravoosi currency; my rationale is that regular currency is used by anyone and is too much widespread to be instantly recognized as a symbol of the Faceless Men, like the sailor to whom Arya shows his coin:

"Wait," Arya said suddenly. "I have something else." She had stuffed it down inside her smallclothes to keep it safe, so she had to dig deep to find it, while the oarsmen laughed and the captain lingered with obvious impatience. "One more silver will make no difference, child," he finally said.
"It's not silver." Her fingers closed on it. "It's iron. Here." She pressed it into his hand, the small black iron coin that Jaqen H'ghar had given her, so worn the man whose head it bore had no features. It's probably worthless, but...
The captain turned it over and blinked at it, then looked at her again. "This... how... ?"
Jaqen said to say the words too. Arya crossed her arms against her chest. "Valar morghulis," she said, as loud as if she'd known what it meant.
"Valar dohaeris," he replied, touching his brow with two fingers. "Of course you shall have a cabin."
A Storm of Swords - Arya XIII

From this passage, it seems to me that the captain is somewhat shocked to see that iron coin, but he is from Braavos, so the mere sight of an iron coin should not be a great surprise to him; but he is "bought" only after Arya say the words, so the whole passage instead of clarifying the situation, gives me even more doubts about the whole subject.

Like, I said, I tend to support the hypothesis that the coins fo the Faceless Men are not regular currency, but I don't have any official reference to support this opinion of mine; for what I know it could be just an assumption made without any established fact.


The only references that I was able to collect are that Arya's coin (given by a Faceless Man) was

a piece of iron no larger than a penny and rusted along the rim. One side had writing on it, queer words she could not read. The other showed a man's head, but so worn that all his features had rubbed off.
A Clash of Kings - Arya X

and about Braavosi currency

Yet they brought him money: leather purses plump with gold and silver and the square iron coins of Braavos.
A Dance with Dragons - The Ugly Little Girl

The World of Ice & Fire book has pictures of both of these coins and they seem to be two different things, but they are both depicted as round coins, and we know that the Bravoosi currency is made of square coins, so I'm inclined to consider these illustrations as inaccurate and to not use them as a solid and valid reference.


So, do the Faceless Men use their own distinct iron coins, or just the regular Braavosi currency?

Please note that I'm only interested in answers about the books, not about the TV show.

marked as duplicate by TheLethalCarrot, Aegon, Edlothiad, Politank-Z, Mat Cauthon Sep 27 '17 at 9:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I know you haven't tagged this with the show so I'll only comment. But the coins we see in Braavos in the show are different to the coin given to Arya. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 27 '17 at 8:22
  • I don't understand why this question was marked as duplicate; it ask a something completely different than the linked one, I can't find any satisfactory answer there; please note that my question was labeled with the books tag only, not with the show one, on purpose. – Sekhemty Sep 27 '17 at 9:35
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    I don't understand what Skooba's answer can be copied to the dupe and be fine really means. For what I get, an answer here is so inclusive that also cover the scope of the other question, but like I said, the scope of my question was not addressed by the answers on that question; right now, my question is still unanswered – Sekhemty Sep 27 '17 at 10:04
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    Your questions are answered in the duplicate link, especially by Aegon in his book only answer. As a reminder, these are your questions: Was the iron coin given by Jaqen H'ghar to Arya regular Braavosi currency? Or were they a different kind, minted just by/for the Faceless Men as a mean to let them being recognized when they wanted to?. Aegon's answer could be copy pasted here and is therefore a duplicate of that question. – Edlothiad Sep 27 '17 at 10:08
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    Well, I don't agree. Aegon answer is very detailed like always, but was posted after my question, its answer and the associate comments were already posted here, and basically summarize all known information from here. The quotes there are the same as those posted here, and I was interested about factual reference and other canonical information, not about speculation. – Sekhemty Sep 27 '17 at 10:21
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It was a coin from the House of Black and White.

It seems the priests of the House of Black and White and the waif also both recognize the coin and it seems to have meaning to them when Arya is accepted into the house.

Her heart sank. "He was from Lorath. His hair was white on one side and red on the other. He said he'd teach me secrets, and gave me this." The iron coin was clutched in her fist. When she opened her fingers, it clung to her sweaty palm.

The priest studied the coin, though he made no move to touch it. The waif with the big eyes was looking at it too. Finally, the cowled man said, "Tell me your name, child."

- A Feast for Crows - Arya I

The coin also only provides you passage to the House of Black and White. Once you have arrived the coin is worthless. As your own quotes provide one coin (no matter what it is Westerosi or Bravosi) would have been enough to pay for her passage. Only the iron coin was enough.

"Why would you wish to fight? Are you some bravo, strutting through the alleys, spoiling for blood?" He sighed. "Before you drink from the cold cup, you must offer up all you are to Him of Many Faces. Your body. Your soul. Yourself. If you cannot bring yourself to do that, you must leave this place."

"The iron coin—"

"—has paid your passage here. From this point you must pay your own way, and the cost is dear."

- A Feast for Crows - Arya II

But the most telling quotes come from when Arya first received the coin.

"What is it?"

"A coin of great value."

Arya bit it. It was so hard it could only be iron. "Is it worth enough to buy a horse?"

"It is not meant for the buying of horses."

"Then what good is it?"

"As well ask what good is life, what good is death? If the day comes when you would find me again, give that coin to any man from Braavos, and say these words to him — valar morghulis."

- A Clash of Kings - Arya IX

Clearly this is not a coin of currency, but a coin to of the Faceless Men.

  • Thank you for the further details; I'm pretty sure that the coin was not regular coinage too; but unfortunately, I still believe that having some characters like the priests and the waif recognize the coin (just like the captain I mentioned), really just means that they, well, recognize it, without giving more details about its origins. Anyway, thank you for the additional insights! – Sekhemty Sep 26 '17 at 22:17
  • Yeah you had it pretty much covered. There is no explicit information either way really. But if it was just a regular coin why/how would people like the captain know what to do when they saw it. – Skooba Sep 27 '17 at 0:12
  • On the other hand, if they have a special coin, they risk being discovered if it will accidentally be revealed/shown when not intended; a regular coin PLUS the words guarantee more secrecy... I'm puzzled, both hypothesis seem to have their valid points – Sekhemty Sep 27 '17 at 6:13
  • I recall in one of the Arya chapters (when she starts fulfilling contracts) that she uses one of the iron coins to kill an insurance agent who doesn't honor his payments to his clients. If my memory serves right, she slips the coin into his pouch, and when the insurance agent sees it, he recognizes its meaning and has a heart attack. I can't post an answer or look for quotes right now (I'm at work), but maybe Skooba could look it up and update his answer, or someone else could post an answer looking at this quote. – Stefan Urziceanu Sep 27 '17 at 6:23
  • @StefanUrziceanu this is covered in an answer to the question this one has been marked as a dupe of. – Edlothiad Sep 27 '17 at 10:10

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