Used as a general term, face value means the apparent value or worth of something as opposed to the real value or worth. That’s why, when we say that you do not take things at face value, we mean that you should take a deeper look to find out what that thing (or idea) really stands for, or what it is worth.
In the financial world, face value holds a similar meaning, although it can be applied in various ways. If you’re talking about a coin, or a bill, or even a stamp, the face value is what is actually stamped on the coin. Let’s say that you have a coin that is marked as 1 U.S. dollar. Its face value is 1 U.S. dollar. The same thing goes for paper money and stamps – whatever is printed on them is their face value.
However, as rare coin collectors would know, face value may not always mean the same as actual value. Old and rare coins may be marked a low value but can be sold for hundreds of times worth the face value. That is the market value.
Face value is also used to refer to stocks and bonds. In these contexts, face value is also known as par value. For stocks, the par value is the amount which is printed on the stock certificate – the original value of the stock. For bonds, the par value is the amount that is paid to the holder when the bonds reach their maturity date.