Darla Dearborn purchased a very old silver obol from John Manuelito in early 2009 for a large sum of gold in her attempt to rescue her older sister from the Lands Beyond. The coin bore a "sinister figure..., some sort of bird-man with an angry, mask-like face" on the obverse, and "something...like a bundle of straw or sticks, above a flat-topped hill" on the reverse.
The coin was stolen by Charlie and delivered to Alexandra Quick shortly after it was acquired by Dearborn, who flew into a rage at the obol's disappearance. Dearborn met with Manuelito again soon after in an attempt to procure another coin, but he refused, citing the illegality of even owning an obol.
After acquiring the obol, Quick learned from Bran and Poe that elves were "appointed to stand between the world of wizards, and the Lands Below" by an "ancient compact," and that the obol is actually the fare paid by a human to an elf to be taken across to the Lands Below. According to Poe, the magic that binds elves requires them to ferry any human upon payment of an obol.
In May 2009, Alex and Maximilian King traveled to the gateway cave below the Charmbridge Academy, where Alex summoned the elf Em and presented her with the obol to secure passage to the Lands Below. According to Em, the obol predates both Charmbridge, and the compact binding humans and elves.