Vinyl Grading Terminology
INFORMATION SOURCE: GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
In Compiling this information the following people have participated
(NOD International Records) firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Walker (Vinylonly) email@example.com
Paula Major (Paula's House of Music) firstname.lastname@example.org
And of course myself
Tim Toms (Back-Trac Records) email@example.com
1996 by Weldon T. Toms (Tim)
The following grades defined are derived from the system used by Goldmine
magazine. This is not to say that other grading systems are not viable.
The grades defined here are among the mainstream. They are not to be
confused with any other system. It is to be used only as a reference
but keep in mind, that when grading, anyone can choose alternative grading
systems for records as long as they can define the terms they use without
FAQ: Compiled August 16th, 1996
Goldmine Grading System Defined:Questions & Answers
Questions in this section:
Q1: What is the Goldmine Grading System ?
Q2: How can I grade my own vinyl based on these grades?
Q1: What is the Goldmine Grading System ?
Goldmine Grading System was 1st created in the early years of record
collecting. These grades were established from various other resources
pertaining to collecting (for example coin, book, comics, and card collecting).
Goldmine Magazine first published a grading scale in 1974. It has undergone
changes through out the years, yet has for the most part remained the
*** Remember! Two people may not come up with the same grade for the
same record. One person may feel a record is MINT and another may say
NM (Near Mint). After reading the next part of this answer, perhaps
you will be able to identify each grade with out too much confusion,
and allow yourself to grade more conservatively (fairly).
with definitions of each grade:
Q2: How can I grade my own vinyl based on these grades?
is the grade scale and what you should look for when assessing a grade
for each record you have.
MINT or M : Perfect! A mint record should look like it has just
left the manufacturer, with NO flaws what so ever. It should look as
though it had never been handled. No scuffs or scratches, blotches or
stains. No stickers address labels, writing on the covers or labels.
No tears or seam splits. No wear to the cover or record period! Age
of the record has nothing to do with it. A MINT record from 1949 should
look like a MINT record from 1996. The number one complaint from collectors
about grading over the years,
have been the deteriorating standards that dealers and private sellers
have had when grading. It is only natural for most people to turn to
the "MINT" grade and read "highest prices" listed
in price guides. Since most price guides have a high and low price range,
the assumed grade most often is NOT mint, but near mint (NM).
but how can I honestly grade a record MINT??? *** MINT COVERS: Simply
put, a mint cover should appear to have never had a record inside it.
No wear to the corners or any marks on the face or back of the cover.
EP jackets (for 7 inch extended plays) and 45 single picture sleeves
also apply to this rule. The record inside can cause an impression (a
round shape in the face of the cover/sleeve) Many dealers or sellers
feel that the artwork (the ink) has to be worn or starting to rub off,
before there is any ring wear. NOPE!! Mint means perfect and nothing
Anytime a person calls anything MINT you should expect a perfect, visually
flawless item. We should actually use the term PERFECT rather than the
term MINT. Probably no one would ever use this grade. PERFECT is to
say that man (who is not perfect) can produce a perfect item. No way!
MINT is already abused in the open market and many people would be disappointed
when they find some flaw to cause it to be an overgrade. My feelings
are NOTHING is perfect and to call anything MINT is purely "Hype".
SPECIAL NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that because stickers
may involve promo and special track listings that were applied from
the factory, it is still not a standard practice. Promo stickers and
large white programming labels (on the bottom of the covers) are considered
a turn off. Therefore even these stickers would lower the grade from
a MINT status to perhaps only EX. Stickers that show special announcements,
such as "Featuring the hit song...etc.", were not applied
to all the commercial releases. Some earlier copies may not have the
sticker since the song in question had not even charted yet. It was
to advertise the whole LP and draw attention to the buyer. Some stickers
are worth money! That means they actually have value. Most companies
applied the stickers to the shrink-wrap and thus, one should save these
items, but if applied to the covers, NM is the best way to grade these
covers. If you wish to place value on the sticker (most are anywhere
from 50 cents to $2.00) then do so but make mention of the sticker being
on the cover to potential buyers! Many people want sticker free covers!
This should be very simple to define (said with tongue in cheek). A
mint record should look perfect, as described earlier. Any defect from
the factory pressing, such as bubbles or pits in the vinyl are not acceptable!
Even if they do not cause any problem when played. It should, as we
said, be a perfect pressing. Records were ALL packaged by hand and the
simple placing of the record into a paper sleeve can caused minor scuffs.
Probably very insignificant, but they are flaws never the less. For
this reason, it is impossible to call a sealed record mint. Thus any
sealed record that is sold, should be sold only with the guarantee that
it is assumed to be unplayed. Unplayed records will always play better
the 1st time unless. of course there was a factory flaw. A sealed record
cannot be inspected for flaws in the vinyl's grooves, so it not wise
to call a sealed record MINT. Sealed records have sold for more than
the high end of price guides. If
you are selling sealed records, be advised that many collectors shy
away from them. A sight unseen record (through mail order) is hard to
sell. A sealed record is even harder to sell. If you sell a sealed record
and the customer finds flaws (such as paper scuffs or defected vinyl)
you won't be able to claim that the damage was caused by them, or that
they swapped a good pressing with a bad pressing. If you sell sealed
records, you will have problems with some people, so be alert to those
claims of overgrading sealed items!
NEAR MINT or NM: Sometimes dealers use M- (Mint Minus)grade.
You may need to ask the dealer if he/she uses the M- grade the same
way as NM. They should mean the same thing. However many people have
used several confusing grades all based around the Mint grade. We define
NM and M- as being almost mint. This grade should be, for the most part,
the most widely used grade for records that appear virtually flawless.
Virtually flawless records are not perfect. As we mentioned above, no
record truly will be perfect, cover or disc. A very minor scuff and
very little else can appear on the vinyl. This will most likely have
occurred during packaging, or removing the record from the inner sleeve
but obviously it had been handled with extreme care. It should play
without any noise over the flaw. The flaw should be very hard to see.
If a scuff covers more than a few tracks yet can be seen, it will not
be NM, however it may come very close. You should always use strong
judgment when evaluating the vinyl's condition. Any blemish no matter
how small, prevents records from being MINT (Or our PERFECT grade).
COVERS: The cover should look as close to perfect with only minor signs
of wear and/or age. Minor impressions to the cover (due to the outer
edge of the vinyl resting inside) may be acceptable, however the artwork
should be as close to perfect as can be.
EXCELLENT or EX or VG++: This is truly NOT a Goldmine defined
grade, however it is becoming more and more mainstream among collectors
and sellers. It is also a very conservative grade for those who don't
want to grade NM, for fear they may overgrade the record and cover (buyers
are very picky remember!). In which case it is a very acceptable grade
yet should not command the highest price based on NM value. To put it
simply, when collectable records are concerned there are only 2 collecting
grades. NM being "Collectors Condition" and everything less
than NM is not. We are not saying EX records won't have any value, they
just should not be sold for the highest end of book value. EX records
will play just like NM or MINT, meaning no audible noise will be heard
during the play. They should sound as good or better than they look.
Many very rare (collectable) items can command very close to NM value,
simply because NM copies may not even exist.
be explained under a different topic.
.FAQ: How to value your collection based on grade)
VINYL: An excellent (or VG++) condition for vinyl will allow minor scuffs
which are visible but only slightly. There may be more than a few, so
be careful not to call a record that has wear to more than 15% of the
surface -EX. The wear should be minimal and of course should play mint!
Any scratches that can be felt with your fingernail can NOT be called
scuffs. Scuffs lay on top of the grooves. If there any break in the
grooves that can be felt, they ARE scratches. And most often, they will
be heard when played (soft clicks or even loud pops). Once again, "No
scratches can make this grade"! Only a few minor paper scuffs and
that's about it. The play should be close to perfect as well!
COVER: Artwork should still be as close to perfect as can be. Some impression
to the cover (minor outer ring wear) but no ink wear! Some slight creases
to the corners, but not wrinkled and obtrusive to the eye. The corners
can show white (where the artwork pasted slick was) meaning, slight
wear. No seam splits or writing on the cover or taped repairs can make
this grade. If you don't think a cover is NM than call it EX or less.
There will be obvious reactions to the EX grade but if you use the EX
grade and price a bit lower, your risk of overgrading will be reduced
dramatically. You will also make more people happy, rather than trying
to call it NM.
VERY GOOD PLUS or VG+: What does this mean? Some people will
call a less than NM record VG+ and skip the EX grade. Goldmine defines
it as Excellent (EX), yet commands only 50% of the value (for most records).
It can easily be defined as 2 ways. VG+ should be the next grade below
a NM value when grading 45 singles. EX can be used for EP's. 45 singles
have only 2 songs and EP's (7" by the way)can have 3, 4, 6 or 8
(seldomly found) songs on the record. With 45 singles one side may be
NM and the other side may not. If the flip side is not NM but still
plays well (or great, no noise), VG+ is a conservative grade. Very few
45's should be called EX unless they are of rarities. This means you
can allow a valuable item to be worth a bit more than just calling it
VG+. Perhaps the buyer will think a VG+ is EX and you can under sell
yourself. Use careful judgment when buying and selling them with this
Now for LP's (the big ones <G). VG+ will show wear, surface scuffs,(or
spiral scuffs that came from turntable platters or jukeboxes for 45
singles)and some very light scratches. Surface scuffs are caused from
blunt (not sharp)objects. Often the minor scuffs are caused from inner
sleeves. The vinyl should still have a great luster, but the flaws will
be noticeable to the naked eye. Sometimes holding the record up to a
very bright light you will see many tiny lines across the surface. If
the flaws don't cause any surface noise the vinyl can still make the
VG+ grade. Most (but not all) VG+ records should still play like a NM
record. Because the vinyl has more than 15% (yet less than 30%) wear
to the surface it can make this grade. Remember, the record still should
look as though it was handled with extreme care. Sometimes people find
records that have no scuffs that are visible, yet a careless needle
scratch causes a break in the grooves. Play the record. Any obtrusive
clicks or pops, which cause the song to be less than enjoyable, may
not even be VG+! Be cautious! Scratches are not acceptable to a serious
collector in any way. If you call a record 95% NM but note the record
as having 1 track with a bad scratch, many will only consider it as
VG (explained next). You should seldom call a record "A Strong
VG, plays mostly VG+". Remember the more conservative you are about
the visual and audio part of the grade, the better chance you will not
have complaints from those who buy from you. Be honest. If you were
buying that record, what grade would you say it was? There are many
serious collectors in this market and they won't hesitate to call your
grading lousy if you put a VG+ grade on a record that plays less than
Now that we defined the EX grade, a few extra flaws will make this grade.
A virtually clean cover but may have small writing on it. (Magic marker
in big letters will not cut it. They are an eye sore so be wary of overgrading).The
artwork should look clean with slightly more aging. The back of the
cover usually gives away the age of the cover. Flat white paper will
be somewhat yellow yet no stains or mildew from water damage. Some minor
wear to the seams or spine, but no tears or holes popping through. The
corners will be slightly dog eared yet no crackly bends defacing the
artwork. In essence, a VG+ cover should have no more than 3 flaws mentioned.
If all apply, it is less than VG+. (see next grade below)
GOOD or VG: This grade has become the much lesser demanded item.
A lot of people feel that a VG record is a record that is good enough.
They are not really going to look very good, but they should STILL play
very good. there will almost always be some surface noise when they
are played. The Dynamics should still be excellent, overpowering the
surface noise. A VG record will appear to have been well played but
still have some luster. The vinyl may be faded, slightly grayish, because
of surface scuffs, which often happens to records that are played and
left out of jackets. Still they should appear to have been handled as
carefully as they could have been. Records that get continuous playing
time will always start to deteriorate. Records that get less play are
easily evident since they almost always look as though they
were played only a few times and then packed away for decades. More
and more surface scuffs and scratches, and audible sound defects WILL
be heard. They should not overpower the dynamics of the music. With
VG records, the surface noise will be minor crackle or a slight hiss,
but should only be heard in between tracks or in low musical passages.
With Jazz and Classical recordings, the music can become very low to
the point where no music is even heard. If any crackle, tics, clicks
or pops are heard, these records will have very little value to a serious
collector! Classical and Jazz is seldom wanted if they are in less than
VG+ condition. It is wise to play these records (as you should all records)
when evaluating grades. Some classical records may look VG+ or even
NM, however play less than perfect. Beware of overgrading these. They
are difficult to grade and conservative grading is a must with them.
and equally as important. Most dealers truly will not have a lot of
time to play every single LP they sell. It is just impossible. However
when records have questionable flaws, the record should be tested at
least where the flaw occurs in the playing surface. Visually noting
the flaw may not be good enough. If the record skips, you will have
made a mistake and the value would thus be much less. A Classical LP
in VG condition often will only be worth 10% of the NM book value. If
they are even wanted at all.
VG COVERS: VG covers will look worn, used. There may be some seam splitting
(but not completely separated!). There will be some ring wear, where
the ink has begun to wear off, giving the cover a look of snow falling.
If the artwork looks snowy all over, it is less than VG condition. There
may be some writing on the cover (still, no Large letters in magic marker).
It will look aged and more yellowish due to contaminants in the air
(sometimes looking like cigarette smoke). Still it should be decent.
If damaged beyond any formidable beauty, it will not make this grade.
VG should at least still have some attractive life to it, and not have
taped seams or water damage to it. If you decide to tape repair a cover,
to prevent further damage, use clear acid free, scotch tape and place
it on so that it is not obtrusive to the eye. If only a small split,
only tape the split. Don't run tape across the entire spine or seams.
Too much tape means too little interest. Use as little as possible.
If the split is minor, it is best to just leave it alone. Note the flaw
and go from there with the grade. Place the record in a polyvinyl jacket
and then behind the cover (outside of jacket but behind it). ______________________________________________________________
or G (including the G+ and VG- grades)
A good record will look very well played, dull, grayish and possibly
abused. However a Good record should still play. It will have distracting
surface noise, such as crackle that is continuous or some hiss. Will
also have some loss of dynamics caused from grooves being worn. It should
play without any skips or any obtrusively loud pops or repeated clicks
caused by deep scratches. If you can't enjoy the record, it is no longer
even good. Good means that it will play with some form of decency, so
one can still enjoy the music even though you can still hear noise caused
from the wear. NOTE: Rock and Roll records generally play loud. G condition
records for them will be the most likely thing that will still sell
well. Jazz and Classical and easy listening in G condition are almost
worthless to a collector, since the musical passages often get very
low and surface noise is too distracting to the listener. Also check
on 45 singles for the length of time. Records that play longer than
3 minutes, may not be as dynamic and thus any wear will be heard more
than the music (overpower the dynamics). Use conservative judgment when
grading these types of singles.
GOOD COVER: A Good cover will have just about everything wrong with
it. It will have seam splits (possibly taped and repaired, but only
with scotch tape. No duct tape or masking tape repairs). These are big
turn offs. May have magic marker writing on the cover but still if they
are in huge letters, it is a big turn off. In essence, the cover will
look virtually trashed, but some artwork will still be noticed. If the
artwork is worn, it is POOR and the cover is worthless. Huge tears or
gouges in the cover will also make the cover POOR. Be careful about
sealed records that have been water damaged. Mildew still can get inside
and cause great damage to the cover and the disc. Use common sense and
you will save yourself from an overgrade.
Sealed records that have water damage should be opened. Otherwise you
will be in trouble later on when the cardboard starts to deteriorate
inside the shrink-wrap. Attempt to dry the covers using a hair dryer
(be sure to remove the record first!)
VG-: This is separate from the above. Many records that appear in VG
condition often play less than very good. Goldmine defines them as better
than Good, but less than Very Good. The value should not increase more
than the value of a Good record. Meaning they all should be priced somewhere
within the same guideline (most often it is 10 to 15% for Good, and
only 15% for Good Plus (G+) and Very Good Minus (VG-).
With a G+ record, it will look just as the described condition for Good,
yet may play better than it looks. Dynamics are usually good enough
to overpower the surface noise. Same for VG-. However VG- and G+ are
of the same value. It is more of a visually and audibly combined grade.
There should be no large price increase for these records. Price them
like G records and you should not have a problem.
FAIR, POOR: The easiest way to define this is if it does not
meet the lowest grade above (GOOD), it is trash. It is worthless. Unless
it is so rare, it won't be sellable at all. It is OK to throw them away
or give them to someone who just wants to have them. It won't be playable
for the most part, and so they are not much good hanging onto them.
Very few poor records are collectable. Some rare colored vinyl or picture
discs are OK, and can still be nice to have, but they won't be good
enough to play again.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT VINYL QUALITY:
Many people will buy reissues of past oldies. The era in which the vinyl
is pressed makes a big difference to the way it will last and how it
will sound for years to come. Original 50's and early 60's used quality
materials to produce LP's. Smaller labels used less than great vinyl.
A good pressing is often identified by it's thickness. Also the depth
of the grooves. These will generally be better for the person who seeks
quality originals. There is still the question as to the use of styrene.
These are more brittle and damaged easily when played on poor equipment.
Finding good playing styrene can only be found by playing them. Some
styrene will play better than others. Styrene was used in all decades
(late 50's up to the late 80's). Recycled
vinyl was used in the mid 70's up to the late 80's as well. Poor vinyl
meant less playing time for these items. Finding them NM is a problem.
Many issues can be found, brand new, with hairline cracks and grayish
discoloring. They may play nice but are unless you find them flawless
and play perfect, don't overgrade them!
of imports from countries such as Taiwan and Korea. Although the
vinyl appears thick (almost too thick), the sound mastering and plate
mastering are inferior. They sound as bad as bootlegs, since they were
mass produced using less than superior technology. They also were placed
in paper sleeves that looked cheesy. Some may sound better than others,
but beyond that, they are not very collectable. They are more of a conversation
piece rather than a valid piece of sound recording. Collectors often
just pick them up for the novelty factor, not because they expect them
to play good.
Quick rundown in abbreviated Grading System
EX or VG++
G (with minor exceptions to G+ and VG-)
F and P (Trash)
GRADES THAT DON'T EXISTS: Be wary of these grades!
M+ : They
are trying to say the record is better than MINT! No such animal. If
you see this grade, avoid the record like the plague. Mint is the highest
grade anything can ever be. And 99 out of 100 times the record won't
even be mint! Man is not perfect! So how can a man-made product be better
than perfect? Answer: Impossible.
NM- : Near
Mint Minus. Just another way of trying to get top book value for a record
that is less than NM. If a seller uses this grade, ask what it means
(thoroughly) as opposed to the NM or M- grade. It's your dollar and
if they are selling it as less than NM yet for top dollar, you may be
out of luck trying to convince them that it was an overgrade on their
part. If a record is slightly less than NM, then use EX or VG++.
you read the above the same rule holds true here. No such thing as EX+.
It is just another confusing grade that does not have any defined level
of agreement among collectors. People who use this grade don't want
to lose money on their collectibles. By upping the grade, means upping
the price. Just be fair. Use conservative grades When you grade a record,
put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer. Would you want to
get a record with this grade and discover some overlooked flaws? If
you sell a record for big $$$ be prepared for criticism.
People will examine the record with more than just a quick glance once
they receive it. Overgrading will only make you look bad. And too many
unhappy customers means very few repeats (or perhaps no customers in
the long run).
Come on, 2 plus marks are enough! No such animal!
G++ : Ok
so I use it once in a blue moon. But at least I describe the way the
record plays, to a tee! The price does not go up. The grade is just
a good selling point. Realistically though it does not exist. Use it
seldomly, if ever
Copyrighted 1996 by Weldon T. Toms
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