IONIA, Phokaia. Circa 625/0-522 BC. EL Myshemihekte – Twenty-fourth Stater (6mm, 0.66 g). Helmeted head right; [below, small seal right] / Quadripartite incuse square. Bodenstedt Em. 15; Boston MFA –; SNG von Aulock 1787; Weber 5732. Near EF. Very rare denomination, only four listed by Bodenstedt. A coastal city of considerable importance, Phokaia was one of the first mints, producing coinage from early in the 6th century BC until the time of Alexander the Great. Like the contemporary mints in Lydia and Lesbos, Phokaia’s earliest coins were made of electrum. Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy primarily of silver and gold, with trace amounts of platinum, copper, and other metals. The ancient Greeks referred to electrum simply as “gold” or “white gold”, instead of “refined gold” which came later when dedicated bi-metallic currencies of pure gold and silver were created. Electrum worked particularly well for coinage because it was harder and more durable than pure gold. Additionally, because it was naturally occurring, it allowed coins to be minted prior to the development of the requisite technology for separating the constituent elements. The earliest coins of Phokaia from around 600 BC contain about 55.5% gold. Coins from the classical period range from 46% in Phokaia to 43% in the neighboring regions. Later coinage continued the decline of gold content, dropping to 40% by the fourth century BC. Even before the complete transition to a bi-metallic currency, it is clear that the mints had discovered how to add silver to the native electrum, covertly reducing the true value of the metal without affecting its perceived worth. Merchants eventually caught on to the variation in the composition of the electrum, resulting in the necessary standardization of weights and relative values of dedicated gold and silver coinage. The largest electrum denomination was a stater, weighing about 14.1 grams. One stater represented approximately one month’s pay for a soldier. To facilitate easier trade, fractions were made: a trite (third), hekte (sixth), hemihekte (twelveth), myshemihekte (twenty-fourth), and further into 1/48th and 1/96th staters, the smallest of which weighing only about 0.14 grams. This coin is a myshemihekte, weighing only 0.66 grams and measuring 6mm in diameter. Representing a full day’s work for a soldier, it was undoubtedly treated with care considering its value, but it must have been difficult to not misplace coins of this size! This militaristic type depicts an anonymous warrior, treated as a hero based on the ornamentation of his helmet. There is clearly a head within the helmet, based on the eye which is shown above the side piece, but the fact that the helmeted head is portrayed without a specific identity is intriguing. Obscuring his features, leaving only the eye and nose visible, results in a stoic and solemn tone. This type is listed in the Bodenstedt reference with only four known. Interestingly, it has iconographic similarities to an earlier issue. While the original emission has a simplified helmet design, it is clear that the subsequent coins mimic the first, meaning that this type may hold some special significance to the Phokaians, perhaps as recognition of the nameless soldiers who were each critically important to their strength as a great ancient power.