Traditional money matters a great deal in the world of John Wick. It’s how assassins get paid and criminal empires get rich. But normal currency is not the underground enterprise’s only kind. Those who serve under the High Table also trade in special gold coins. Those signature tokens are not replacements for regular cash or goods. They’re not even equivalent to them. They represent something much more important than money. In the first episode of The Continental, Frankie’s theft put the High Table on high alert, because without its special coin press, this John Wick organization that has endured for millennia could collapse in an instant.
The Continental‘s first episode expanded High Table lore far beyond what we previously knew about the criminal organization. The masked Adjudicator revealed the High Table existed before the Roman Empire. That set its origins back more than 2,000 years. Previous speculation “only” placed the High Table’s founding to the Aztec Empire in the 12th century.
How could that possibly be true? How could the High Table operate continuously for that long, while also expanding around the world, as countless nations and empires fell over the centuries? The answer is “rules and consequences.” The entire High Table universe might consists of lawbreakers, but it maintains order by ensuring those who serve it are bound by very strict rules and very strict consequences. And those gold coins are the tangible form of that structure.
In John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Keanu Reeves’ assassin visited Jerome Flynn’s Berrada at his facility that manufactures High Table gold coins in Morocco. During their meeting Berrada showed off the first coin ever made there before explaining the real value of those special tokens.
Now this coin, of course, it does not represent monetary value. It represents the commerce of relationships. A social contract in which you agree to partake. Order and rules.
John Wick‘s coins are the manifestation of favors and trust. They’re more valuable than regular money— which anyone can use—because they show you are part of this underground world. It’s why John stored so many under his concrete basement floor rather than actual cash. They make it possible to get favors and services normal money can’t buy possible, because those coins reveal you are part of that world. It’s why a ’70s cop can’t walk into the Continental and buy a drink without one. The coins also reveal you can follow the rules and are a participant in the commerce of the relationships, which are the very foundation of the High Table’s world. Those relationships make rules possible, and the rules keep the High Table going.
Frankie’s theft of the machine that makes those coins represented an existential crisis for the High Table. (Fitting it was housed in a lock with a skull on it.) Because if someone can start making countless, unauthorized coins, the entire organization collapses immediately. If no one can trust those coins and who made them no one can trust anyone who hands them one. The coins previously immeasurable intrinsic value suddenly becomes very quantifiable—they become worthless.
That’s why the coins themselves are minted with the phrases Ex Unitae Veres (“Out of unity, comes strength”) on one side and Ens Causa Sui (“Something generated within itself”) on the other.
Of all the things someone could steal from the High Table their coin press is the most worrisome for the group. If it falls into the wrong hands it would mean the commerce of relationships collapses. That means the order of rules and consequences collapses, next. And that means the High Table, after 2,000 years, collapses forever.
We know that won’t happen on The Continental, because 40 years later John Wick will find himself back in the mix of High Table happenings. But what we don’t yet know is exactly how that coin press will lead to Winston serving the High Table.
We can guess, though. Returning the press that makes those ever-important coins would be a great way to build a relationship.