money words

Cold cash (also “cold, hard cash”) means money immediately available.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists “cold cash” as American English, and “hard cash” as British English. Perhaps “cold hard cash” is Canadian?

The phrase may arise from the idea that coins are cold and hard. In any case, coins are harder than paper money or other instruments of payment. There is also an inference here that coins of gold, silver and copper had intrinsic value and thus were preferred to paper instruments in the days before paper instruments became common.

In the cut and thrust of commerce a lot of transactions rely on the use of checks and various forms of credit. Where these are not favored, the phrase “cold hard cash” applies to both coins and notes which are immediately available, or ready, as a form of payment.

“Cold, hard cash” is a modern expression incorporating the “cold” probably to represent a sort of cynicism in the minds of whoever insisted on “hard cash.”


Face value is the value of a coin, stamp or paper money, as printed on the item itself, by the issuing authority. The face value is usually the legal value, but may have no relationship to market value. For example, some shares, coins, and stamps may be traded at prices far above, or far below, their face value.

Taking someone at face value is assuming that another person’s suggestion, offer, or proposal is sincere, rather than a bargaining ploy. The opposite of “taking at face value” is to look for a hidden meaning or ulterior motives.

Face value can be used to refer to the apparent value of something other than a financial instrument, such as a concept or plan. In this context, “face value” refers to the apparent merits of the idea, before the concept or plan has been tested.

Face value also refers to the price printed on a ticket to a sporting event, concert, or other event. In many jurisdictions, re-selling tickets for more than face value (or a certain amount above face value) is called “ticket scalping” and is illegal.

And there is never any doubt about the face value of cold, hard cash.

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