The seaport of Phocaea was located at the end of an important trade route connecting the Middle East with the Aegean Sea. The town specialized in intermediate trade by bringing eastern goods to the western cities. To facilitate this trade, it developed an elaborated coin system.
The name of Phocaea is said to derive from the shape of some islands off the city's coast which resemble a seal, as 'phoke' is the Greek word for this animal. Accordingly, the seal became the city's symbol and as such was depicted on the Phocaean coins. On this small coin, a 48th stater, only the head of the animal is shown on the obverse.