“Face value,” according to the OED, is “the value printed or depicted on a coin, banknote, ticket, etc., especially when less than the actual value.” But we could hear in this expression an imperative—“face value!”—an injunction to consider value face to face, that is, prosopon pros prosopon. Prosopon, the Greek word for mask, gave rise to the rhetorical figure of prosopopoeia (prosopon poiein: to confer a mask or a face). A striking occurrence of prosopopoeia is found in the eighteenth-century British genre called “it-narrative,” in which inanimate things speak and recount their life narrative. The first of these novels—Charles Gildon’s Golden Spy (1702)—gives voice to a bunch of coins. And the genre becomes self-reflexive when money starts to “coin words,” like the autobiographical protagonist of The Adventures of a Bank-Note (1770). Drawing on ancient sources, contemporary art, and readings of Nietzsche, Marx, and Levinas, the article attempts to formulate the following question: Why does money need a mask?

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