Goldmine's Record Album Grading System
How to Grade: Look at everything about a record -- Its playing surface, its label, its edges -- under a strong light. Then, based on your overall impression, give it a grade based on the following criteria:
Mint (M): Absolutely perfect in every way -- certainly never played, possibly even still sealed (More on still sealed under "Other considerations"). Should be used sparingly as a grade, if at all.
Near Mint (NM or M-): A nearly perfect
record. Many dealers won't give a grade higher than this, implying
(perhaps correctly) that no record is ever truly perfect.
The record should show no obvious signs of wear. A 45 RPM or EP sleeve should have no more than the most minor defects, such as almost invisible ring wear or other signs of slight handling.
An LP jacket should have no creases, folds, seam splits or any other noticeable similar defect. No cut-out holes, either. And of course, the same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves and the like.
Basically, an LP in Near Mint condition looks as if you just got it home from a new record store and removed the shrink wrap.
Very Good Plus (VG+): A Very Good Plus
record will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a
previous owner who took good care of it.
Record surfaces may show some slight signs of wear and may have slight scuffs or very light scratches that don't affect one's listening experience. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are OK.
The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable. The center hole will not have been misshapen by repeated play.
Picture sleeves and LP inner sleeves will have some slight ring wear, lightly turned-up corners, or a slight seam split. An LP jacket may have slight signs of wear also and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation or corner indicating it was taken out of print and sold at a discount.
In general, if not for a couple minor things wrong with it, this would be Near Mint. All but the most mint-crazy collectors will find a Very Good Plus record highly acceptable.
A synonym used by some collectors and dealers for "Very Good Plus" is "Excellent."
Very Good (VG): Many of the defects found in
a VG+ record will be more pronounced in a VG disc. Surface noise will be
evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during a song's intro and
fade, but will not overpower the music otherwise. Groove wear will start
to be noticeable, as will light scratches (deep enough to feel with a
fingernail) that will affect the sound.
Labels may be marred by writing, or have tape or stickers (or their residue) attached. The same will be true of picture sleeves or LP covers. However, it will not have all these problems at the same time, only two or three of them.
Good (G), Good Plus (G+):
Good does not mean Bad! A record in Good or Good Plus condition can be
put onto a turntable and will play through without skipping. But it will
have significant surface noise and scratches and visible groove wear (on a
styrene record, the groove will be starting to turn white).
A jacket or sleeve will have seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, ring wear or other defects will start to overwhelm the object.
If it's a common item, you'll probably find another copy in better shape eventually. Pass it up. but if it's something you have been seeking for years, and the price is right, get it... but keep looking to upgrade.
Poor (P), Fair (F): The record is cracked,
badly warped, and won't play through without skipping or repeating. The
picture sleeve is water damaged, split on all three seams and heavily marred by
wear and writing. The LP jacket barely keeps the LP inside it.
Inner sleeves are fully seam split, crinkled, and written upon.
Except for impossibly rare records otherwise unattainable, records in this condition should be bought or sold for no more than a few cents each.
Other grading considerations. Most dealers give a separate grade to the record and its sleeve or cover. In an ad, a record's grade is listed first, followed by that of the sleeve or jacket.
With Still Sealed (SS) records, it's safe to
assume that they are in Very Good Plus to Near Mint
condition (unless there is notable damage). There are many original factory sealed records still out there (warehouses full)--just be carefull: it's easy to re-seal one. Let the buyer beware!
N-: Like new
E+: A choice copy with virtually no wear
E: Excellent with only minimal traces of use and handling
E-: Very nice with slight groove wear, some light marks
V+: Well played but very nice, with some groove wear
V: Worn, but listenable. Considerable surface noise will be evident
V-: Very worn, but you can still make out the music
P: Beat, maybe unplayable
If two grades are listed, they are for side a and b respectively.
brass plug: small brass plug in cover to indicate cut-out
cc: cut corner, slice of cover is missing to indicate cut-out
coh: cut-out-hole, small hole in cover
dnap: does not affect play
in shrink: in original shrinkwrap (but not sealed)
in loose bag: in original loose bag (predates shrinkwrap)
noc: name on cover (nobc: name on back cover, nofc: name on front cover)
nol: name on label
re: reissue, not the first pressing
rw: ringwear (wear on cover resembling the shape of the record)
sm: sawmark, small cut in cover to indicate cut-out
soc: sticker on cover (sobc: sticker on back cover, sofc: sticker on front cover)
sol: sticker on label
ss: seam split
toc: tape on cover (tobc: tape on back cover, tofc: tape on front cover)
tol: tape on label
woc: writing on cover (wobc: writing on back cover, wofc: writing on front cover)
wol: writing on label