In scouring online offerings of vendors, reading auction catalogs, you may have come across the letters "SNG" in attribution references and wondered which reference or references it relates to. In this article you will find out what it means and whether SNG are references of ancient Greek coinage which you should consider adding to your collection.
What is SNG?
SNG stands for Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum. The word sylloge is derived from the greek word συλλογή which means collection. Nummorum is the genitive plural of nummus, Latin for "Coins", itself derived from the greek word νόμος ("to distribute"). Graecorum is Latin for of "Greek". Therefore put together it means "Catalogue of Greek Coins".
SNG was established by the British Academy in 1930 as a mission to publish ancient Greek coins in both public and private collections. There are over 120 volumes which have been published from collections in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Britain, France, Denmark, USA, Australia and other countries.
SNG is the primary references for attributing ancient Greek coinage. Commonly referenced SNGs include:
SNG Copenhagen. This is the largest collection of ancient Greek coinage.
SNG American Numismatic Society
SNG von Aulock
Should I buy a set of SNGs?
SNG is recommended for the intermediate and advanced collectors. However if you particular enjoy the aspect of the hobby which is researching and attributing your coins, you might decide to buy a set at any time. It is a question of economics vs. the utility and enjoyment you would derive from owning SNG.
An example. If you have just started collecting or if you do not intend to collect a large number of coins, then there are other much more accessible references which would more than adequately service your needs. These include David R Sear's Greek Coins & Their Values as well as the various online databases which are have listed in Resources. Notably, one of these databases is an online Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum Project website which contains coins from a number of the SNGs.
If however, you plan to buy large numbers of coins or particularly enjoy finding your coin in physical references (which in this author's opinion can be a highly addictive activity) and you can afford it, then why not?
Which SNG to buy?
SNG Copenhagen is by far the most comprehensive with over 22,000 coins documented. It is also one of the few SNGs whose volumes can be readily found for sale in one set. You should expect to more than USD 1,000 for such a set. Instead, you might start off buy buying individual volumes based on the areas which interest you. The first SNG this author bought was Alpha Bank which contained many coins of the type and in the name of Alexander the Great, consistent with his collecting area of interest.