IONIA. Phokaia. Circa 625/0-522 BC. Hekte (Electrum, 9 mm, 2.59 g). Mother seal swimming to left with a young swimming to right below, each with annulet above. Rev. Rough incuse square. BMFA -. Bodenstedt -. Rosen -. SNG Copenhagen -. SNG Kayhan -. SNG von Aulock -. Apparently unpublished and unique, a wonderful coin with an incredibly charming obverse. Nearly extremely fine.
The name Phokaia is derived from the Greek word Φωκάι, which translates as 'seals' and is still found, as a Greek loanword, in the modern Latinian languages today (fr. 'phoque', it./span./portug. 'foca'). Unsurprisingly, the lovely animals served as a badge on Phokaia's coins, most commonly in the form of a small seal below or behind a larger main type. The earliest coinage of the city, however, still retains the seal as main type: on the present example, we find one of the most charming renderings of animals in all of Archaic Greek coinage, in the form of a mother seal swimming to the left with her young heading to the right below. The fact that mother and child swim in opposite directions gives the scenery an enchanting playfulness that almost certainly derives from personal observation by the artist - perhaps he was watching the animals romping around the small islands in the bay before Phokaia?