A Note on Grading
In my experience, receiving a record that was graded accurately often seems to be the most difficult and daunting part of collecting. Despite the different grading systems that exist, it is a nuanced art, rather than a science. There are multiple grading systems out there that use the same values, but describe the condition differently. A Goldmine G+ might be described the same way as a Record Collector VG+. I try to take a common sense approach to grading, and I take the time to thoroughly and accurately condition the records I sell.
These grades are mostly based on the visual. Play grading takes too much assumption into account. No one who buys an album from me can replicate the exact variables of my playback experience: cartridges, stylus shape, tone arms, and other differences in equipment will yield a different result. Something with marks that plays perfectly for me may not for you. I try and give general comments about playback if there are specific areas of concern on a record, but these are a guideline, not an empirical judgment of how it will sound to you. I have included images so you can see what I am seeing, in a way (you can also open or download larger version of all images here at the bottom of the page).
Original and vintage pressings were never made with audiophile standards in mind. Records were commercial, mass produced items, or small pressings made on a budget. The pressing quality varies widely for any given record. As a collector, I naturally expect some level of surface noise or crackle on any record I buy, even if it is pristine looking. That is the real sound of vinyl!
This is highest grade that I will assign to opened, handled records, and then very rarely. The vinyl is nearly flawless, bright and shiny. A very minor, barely visible scuff or two may be permitted, but no scratches. The label is bright, clean and unmarked.
Cover: Very minor signs of wear or cover impressions. Artwork is as close to new as possible.
Disc appears bright and shiny, but may have some visible surface wear, very minor marks and/or scuffs, such as from removing the record from a paper innersleeve. There can be a few hairline scratches but nothing that is too obvious outside of a raking light or that should have a major affect on play. Label is clean and unmarked, but might show signs of being handled.
Sleeve: Minor disc impression or slight corner creases or bumps, maybe a faint crease or two. No seam splits or writing on the cover. Artwork is clean and unworn and there is no ink wear.
In short, this is an in-between grade. The vinyl will have some visible surface wear, more numerous hairline scratches and scuffs, but less likely impact on the sound quality, and may play with light surface noise or the occasional tick or pop. Vinyl will still have good luster; labels may have minor imperfections (small labels or initials, minor tears or imperfections, spindle marks, etc.) but otherwise clean.
Sleeve: There will be more visible wear than an EX, faint ringwear and edgewear, some possible rubbing and pigment loss. There will be no seam splits or cutouts. Possible fading from sunlight or other minimal blemishes such as discoloration from age or light foxing, or small indentations.
Vinyl has surface wear, including visible scratches and scuffs, but no detrimental impact on the sound quality, and may likely play with some surface noise, and some pops or clicks. Vinyl may begin to show signs of wear from play; labels may have imperfections (writing, labels, tears, spindle marks, etc.) but otherwise clean.
Sleeve: Clean but may have writing or marks and will show some wear. There may be ring wear, where the disc has created a raised area on the cover that resulted in the ink wearing off the paper. There may be discoloration or staining, seam wear, and/or minor splits or tears (nothing over 1 inch), or indentations in the sleeve. Corners can have creases or fraying and bumps, and spine may have wear.
Vinyl will have noticeable scratches or scuffs that can cause more than occasional surface noise during playback, including pops and ticks. There will be no skips or issues preventing playback. Vinyl may appear somewhat dull as groove wear may be present. Labels may have small tears, tape marks, larger writing, etc. but still easily legible. There may be wear or deformation of the spindle hole.
Sleeve: Cover is worn and used. Seams may be starting to split or may have been unobtrusively repaired with clear tape. (I use special archival-quality, non-yellowing, clear tape for all repairs.) There is moderate ringwear, but the artwork is still attractive. There may be yellowing or discoloration and there may be larger writing, labels, or marks. Corners may have damage or creases and there may be scratches or gouges that otherwise damage the artwork. Might have light water damage.
The record will have a lot of notable marks and scratches, but still plays through without skipping, so it can serve as filler until something better comes along. There could be significant surface noise or groove wear, and/or the label is worn.
Sleeve: Has significant ring wear, heavy writing, or obvious damage caused by someone trying to remove tape or stickers and failing miserably. Has seam splits obvious on sight. Could have water damage or peeling of the cover.
Sealed before coming into my possession and never opened. Disc is assumed to be undamaged and mint, but this cannot be proven until the album is actually opened and the disc examined. Consider it Schrodinger’s Vinyl. The cover can be seen through the shrink and is graded to the above standards.
I tend not to sell records in any lesser condition than the above, but will offer them if they are rare or notable pressings, or if the condition issue only affects small parts of the record (i.e. a warp affects the first song on each side, but the rest of the record plays with no issue).
Images (click to open in a new window and magnify, or right click to save):
NM Vinyl | NM Sleeve
EX Vinyl | EX Sleeve
VG++ Vinyl | VG++ Sleeve / VG++ Sleeve Back
VG+ Vinyl / VG+ Vinyl | VG+ Sleeve / VG+ Sleeve Back
VG Vinyl / VG Vinyl | VG Sleeve / VG Sleeve
G+ Vinyl | G+ Sleeve