The Iron Coin of the Faceless Man
“The fact that someone has made a version of this coin makes me nerd flail.” - NerdApproved.com
The design of the mysterious iron coin of the Faceless Man is based upon a story-fragment from the mythical world of A Song of Ice and Fire. The iron coin of the Faceless Man plays an important role in the story! Arya Stark receives this coin in the course of her adventures and initially discounts it as valueless. As it happens, this is not a “coin” in the usual sense at all, but a recognition token for members of the Faceless Man organization, a secretive mafia-like guild of assassins trained to alter their faces at will by both rigorous training and a form of magic. In the story… if someone gives you this coin and says the words: “Valar Morghulis”, (trans: “All Men Must Die”) then you have got to say the proper response: “Valar Dohaeris” (trans: “All Men Must Serve”) in order to save your life. Arya eventually comes to understand the significance of the coin, along with us, as the story progresses.
In real life many fans of George’s novels are using these as “challenge” coins during gatherings or “cons”. That is… you show your coin and say the words, and if the other person can’t show their coin in response then they “must serve”… as in… go fetch the next round of drinks! All in good fun!
This coin has been struck in metallurgical grade Pure Iron (not steel!) on dies hand-engraved by the late Greg Franck-Weiby, and comes with a blackened and pastewaxed finish. They weigh about 5.6 grams and are about 26mm in diameter. Interestingly, they have a bright “ring” sound when flipped in the air, unusual for an iron coin which tend to sound dull. The obverse design for the coin was debated for over two years with many sketches before Greg finally set graver to steel in 2010. The description of the coin in the text was explicit in that a man’s face was portrayed, but was indistinct. Arya at first assumes the coin to be very worn, but later realizes that such is not the case and that in reality the portrait itself is very indistinct. Since profile portraits (commonplace on real-world coins) are always distinct no matter what the state of wear, Greg argued that the portrait MUST of necessity be a facing one in order to fulfill the description of being both unworn yet indistinct. So a shadowy face resides under a deep cowl. It is a testament to Greg’s skill that the face can seem to change as it is turned in the light… just as the faces of the Faceless Men themselves may change at will. The size of the coin was also carefully chosen because in the story Arya is given the coin by a man in chains awaiting execution. We can assume that he’s been thoroughly searched, and yet he has managed to keep this coin, somehow. Therefore without going into too many details… it can only be so big!
Inscriptions on reverse show an enciphered VDVM symbol in the center, with lettering around the rim spelling out VALAR MORGHULIS, VALAR DOHAERIS. Some earlier versions of this coin used an archaic spelling with the silent “H” dropped from “MORGHULIS”. Since those coins hail from the years before there were any dictionaries in the land, it is not unusual to see variations in spelling on older coins. Starting with the sixth pressing, the more modern spelling is used.