Electrum stater with a seal

Greek, around 600-550 BC
Phocaea, Ionia (modern Turkey)

An early electrum coin with a 'talking' design

The earliest coins come from Lydia in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). From there, electrum coinage (made from the alloy of gold and silver) soon spread to the Greek cities on the west coast of Asia Minor. From its beginnings there in the late seventh century BC, the use and production of coins reached the Greek Islands and the Greek mainland during the course of the sixth century. It is often difficult to tell where a particular coin was produced, because none of these early coins was inscribed with a place name.

However, educated guesses can be made. This electrum coin has the design of a seal on its obverse (front). The Greek word for seal is phoce and this coin is therefore usually attributed to the Greek city of Phocaea, in Ionia. This is an early instance of the phenomenon of the type parlant, or 'talking type', where the design on the coin somehow illustrates the name of the city that produced it.

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More information


G.K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek coins (London, Seaby, 1990)

C.M. Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek co (London, Methuen, 1976)

I.A. Carradice, Greek coins (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

I.A. Carradice and M.J. Price, Coinage in the Greek world (London, Seaby, 1988)


Diameter: 20.000 mm
Weight: 16.518 g

Museum number

CM 1893-7-6-1



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