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My New Record Grading Scale, do we need this or not?

Discussion in 'Marketplace Discussions' started by The FRiNgE, Sep 8, 2020.

  1. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I am writing a book on record collecting. On my almost daily hunts, I meet new people, some non-collectors interested in records, and have opportunity to talk about music and records. Many or most have no idea how to grade a record. It seems mostly, the surface condition isn't a problem, nor on grading the cover. We order a large pizza, it arrives, and we SEE it is indeed a large pizza. The groove seems to be a sticking point. I have offered a "live" tutorial on what to look for, what groove damage looks like. Of course dulling and graying of the groove can be seen and assessed without much error. But groove scoring is the elusive one. The groove maintains a reasonable level of luster, but often has sustained very audible damage.

    I have attempted to address groove scoring as a priority in record grading. The forensic evidence will be visible by the type of dulling, sometimes ever so slight, and seen by the angle held and how the light reflects off the groove. The label can be telling of previous play on a stationary "stacker" spindle, or mass produced record changer. These are mostly equipped with a ceramic cartridge, heavier tracking, and have no anti-skate mechanism. Spindle trails, even one, or the first indication of spindle wear throw a red flag on groove scoring, and distortion of sound. The record may appear nice, but play far worse than it appears.

    Some of my "students" have failed to recognize scoring (unable to see and discern) vs others who get it. Those who do see the difference, have expressed their excitement on their new knowledge, and on how they can save themselves $$ and guesswork on making their record purchases. Spot play damage per visible groove scoring is proof on how scoring damages the groove on just ONE play!

    Maybe we don't need a new scale? I feel, however, the Goldmine description of "VG+" assigns a "plus" for a record that has some degradation of the surface and groove. Shouldn't that be a minus? What is "very good" about a record that may have deep "feeler scratches" and produces distortion no audiophile can stand? (maybe some of us can, but how does this describe, "very good"?) Goldmine describes cover grading in detail, and record surface condition in detail, but fails to associate groove scoring to fidelity loss, and how this adversely lessens the play quality of the record.

    Should there be only one acceptable grade? Collector grade? or NM?

    Should this be condensed?? more detail? maybe read less like a "tutorial"?
    Feedback Welcome, Thanks!!! :cool:

    My ad format followed by the new SVK Grading scale:

    Here is Nina Bocelli, "Not My Funeral", matrix 1a/1a stamper. This is a quality mastered 1st pressing record known for superb sound quality and quiescence. Test played on an audiophile turntable to assure there is no groove wear/ damage, and guaranteed to meet or surpass your expectation.

    LABEL ................... Not a Birdie
    MEDIA .................. Nodular LP Record
    CAT # .................... Nectar B0013437-02
    UPC ....................... N602527188805
    GENRE .................. Noisy atonal Jam

    SIDE A:
    SIDE B:

    VINYL .................... std
    INNER SLV ............ std
    COVER ................... fine

    Shipping and Terms:

    Free USA Shipping: USPS media rate.
    For Canada, and International shipping: USPS 1st Class International.

    I do combine shipping for multiple item purchases.
    NY state buyers are subject to NY sales tax.
    International buyers are subject to your local duty and VAT taxes, where applicable.


    Record Grading Scale
    New (SVK) Grading scale

    Collector Plus, (Plus) the record appears freshly pressed, crisp center hole, highly reflective groove area, no indications of groove scoring, and no surface scuffs whatsoever. This condition should be verified by spot play on an audiophile grade turntable, which imparts negligible wear, thus preserves its mint state. The record should produce no distortion of sound, produce full fidelity very close to the original master tape (contingent on mastering quality as well) and be virtually noise free.

    Note: a collector graded record should NEVER be test (spot) played on a cheap "Crosley" type record player. It will be damaged and degraded by that ONE test play.

    Collector Standard, (std) describes a nearly perfect record, commensurate to NM. One or two minor sleeve scuffs are allowable, as sometimes found on a new, just opened record. The record should show no visual indication of groove scoring, nor wear, and produce no distortion of sound. The visible and audible integrity of the groove shall be fully intact, without any audible degradation whatsoever. The record should produce full fidelity, and musical detail, and be almost completely noise free.

    Important! What collector grade is not:
    a scored groove is not collector grade
    2) any spindle wear is not collector grade
    3) excessive surface scuffing, although not audible, is not collector grade
    4) a record that produces any distortion at all due to scoring is not collector grade
    5) lower level continuous background crackle due to scoring is not collector grade
    6) lower level continuous background crackle due to impure vinyl is not collector ...
    7) any other objectionable defect, such as an excessive warp or off-center is not collector grade.. (minor warp or inaudible off-center permissible at the grader's discretion)

    Fine, is very near collector grade. The surface may have a few more scuffs, or perhaps an inaudible surface scratch that the grader feels doesn't meet standard. However the focus is on groove condition. The fact groove scoring exists at all, even when so slight, removes any possibility of collector grade. The presence of barely detectible visible scoring shall not produce any discernable audible consequence. Its very presence indicates forensically, the record has been played less frequently, and presumably on a better quality record changer.

    This grade will sometimes show on the label, the first indication of spindle wear and/or maybe a spindle trail, again which forensically indicates it was previously played on a record changer. The seller should always detail what minor issues exist, surface condition and groove condition, and spot play when possible. Value may be about 25% to 75% of collector standard, and relative to artist, or title, or rarity of the record.

    Acceptable This grade adheres to reasonably low groove wear, however encompasses a wider range of allowable surface defects, label appearance, but no deep scratches. The record will show evidence of play, but should still appear clean. Most importantly, even in cases the surface isn't scratched, the groove condition can downgrade to "acceptable". But otherwise for any reason the grader can not describe the record as "collector grade", then "acceptable" would be aptly decided.

    Groove scoring will be more visible under close inspection, and most often the groove still lustrous and appealing to the eye. The degree of dulling will be not more than 10%, or in other words most of the original gloss still intact. Groove scoring usually has an audible affect, first, on the left channel, as record changers do not have an antiskate. Because of this, scoring occurs first on the inner groove wall.

    Likewise, wear (not scoring) occurs first on the inner bands, or nearer to the label. Slight graying of the groove is always a bad sign, in most cases results in distortion of sound. Slight graying at the inner bands of an LP (or lightly overall on a 7 inch 45) may sometimes be acceptable by discretion of the grader, but still adhering to strict guidelines at this level. A test play may be in order to make a final decision.

    However, "acceptable" is somewhat a misnomer as certain genres of music, such as symphonic, operatic vocal, and organ music.. in this condition will usually be unacceptable and rejected by a collector or audiophile. Rock n pop genres, seem to be more tolerant of minor groove scoring/ wear, and more accepted as "serviceable" in terms of visual appearance and sound. An older seven inch 45 RPM record, for instance, may be more acceptable with slightly more wear, because they are so much harder to find in pristine condition. This does not excuse the grader of bias, as also the 45 in acceptable condition should present cleanly. If there is any doubt, the record should be downgraded to LOW grade.
    For the more common titles, the value takes a big hit, most often less than 25%* of "collector standard" that meets more critical visual AND fidelity expectation. Most usually, some audible intermittent distortion will be produced. Quiet passages may be accompanied by some background noise... but no persistent crackling nor repeater ticks. If the record looks good to you, and sounds good to you, despite having some flaws, it is acceptable.

    Low Grade, (Low) describes all records the grader deems unacceptable for any reason. Low grade is very inclusive. Any record that has sustained excessive surface abrasion, but otherwise plays rather well, may be correctly downgraded to "low grade". More typically, the record that suffers more advanced groove damage or wear, accompanied by audible distortion and noise, should be LOW grade. It doesn't matter if the noise overwhelms the music or not.. if the record sounds bad to you, it is LOW grade.

    The level of low grade isn't considered. Every record deemed not acceptable is low grade... not low grade and lower. This scale does not indulge in sub-classifying unacceptable records.

    Scratches when present may be deeper and audible. There may be quite a lot of label wear, and/or center hole wear (spindle wear) If the label condition appears too ragged or defaced (or missing) to be acceptable, the record may be correctly described LOW grade. Records in this condition are seldom purchased, even at thrifts, and usually end up in the compactor. . There will always be some oddballs that lie to you, but don't let them. There will sometimes be that record that presents cleanly with a beautiful surface, but has sustained heavy groove damage, (but deceptively glossy) which should be LOW grade. A record may sometimes present better visually, than it plays. Then there's that beat up looking record (on the surface flats) that plays remarkably well. Play quality at this level covers a wider range of issues, singular or cumulative... maybe noise plus lightly distorted sound, or simply heavily distorted sound.. all of them, unacceptable.

    Now despite the grade, all isn't lost. Certain low grade records may have redeemable qualities. An exception would be a Zeppelin II RL pressing (or similar title) Let's say it has a few scuffs and lightly scored (maybe acceptable) <<<but>>> defaced by a deep scratch in the first minute of side one.. graded LOW grade, (because of the scratch can not be acceptable) but redeemable in terms of referencing the pressing quality. (conditional acceptance) A nonplayable or mutilated record, may be of interest only to prove that the record exists. Another exception may be to complete a discography, until a better copy is found.

    Play Grade: Some records will be play graded. Play grade will always be on a high resolution audiophile system, cartridge and stylus shape specified, so the buyer can make a more informed decision. I am a hifi enthusiast as well as a professional musician, qualified to accurately grade a record to meet or exceed your expectation.

    Feed your mind with music!


    I had originally had "collector grade" followed by "acceptable" (what a collector regards as a clean record worthy of purchasing) But then added "fine" to bridge the gap... thoughts on that?

    The new scale does not correlate well to the older one, as the groove condition plays a larger role. Low grade begins at VG by the old scale.

    Collectr Plus (Mint)
    Collectr std.. (NM)
    Fine .............(VG++)
    Acceptable ... (VG+)
    Low Grade ... (VG, VG-, G+, G)
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
  2. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow...

    I like the idea, but for this to catch on it would need to be a lot more concise, and you’d have to make it a lot clearer how to spot the groove scoring you mention.

    honestly, if people can’t grade correctly according to the current grading system, they don’t have a hope in heck of getting this right.
  3. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks! and a great suggestion! The book will be accompanied by a DVD with audio examples to correlate the visual to audio. A written description of what scoring looks like isn't easy. The groove often appears lustrous, but it's the KIND of reduction of luster, and variations of it. (and misgraded as NM) For example, some types of scoring impart a surface rainbow effect (colors imposed on the surface ) when angling the record under a bright point source lamp. This can be seen also under fluorescent lamps. Fluorescent, otherwise, isn't the best lighting for inspection, as it generally masks other types of groove scoring (sight dulling) and groove wear.
  4. raye_penber

    raye_penber Writer

    Do we need a new record grading scale?
    Honestly, I'd be happy if sellers on Discogs would accurately use the existing one.
  5. Man at C&A

    Man at C&A Forum Resident

    I see where you're coming from, but it's too complicated.

    I do think that whether a record has been playgraded, partially playgraded or visually graded should be part of the grading system. Only problem would be we don't know what on.
    The FRiNgE and SteveM like this.
  6. formbypc

    formbypc Forum Resident

    "Crosley" won't mean anything to anyone in territories where that brand is not sold.

    If this is targeted at an international audience ...
    The FRiNgE, LivingForever and SteveM like this.
  7. I've never come across anybody selling records online, whether it's via Fleabay or Discogs, who seriously knows (or cares?) how to grade properly.

    Over the past 10 years I've reluctantly had to buy some used records online. I've used a multitude of sellers from various outlets but I've only ever bought records graded as Mint / Near Mint.

    Even though I've now picked up close to 100 used LPs in this period, not one of them is near mint!

    It seems to me the majority of sellers overgrade items.

    However I applaud the efforts of our distinguished friend here. I completely agree with him that current grading standards are hopelessly inadequate for true audiophiles.

    The most useless system which seems to be the most commonly used is the Record Collector Used Grading System.

    For example, what does a "slight lessening in sound quality" really mean? To me that would mean some surface noise which detracts from the music. For others it could mean the distortion due to groove damage and wear which becomes obvious and affects the music.

    There needs to be far more specific detail in each grading and yes, far more grading levels.

    Just my 0.02 from someone who has almost abandoned vinyl now for the benefits of CD!
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  8. Man at C&A

    Man at C&A Forum Resident

    I'm absolutely loving the benefits of CD recently.
    The FRiNgE, SteveM and Sear like this.
  9. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I hear this loud and clear. I have likewise purchased online NM graded records that are not NM. All of them produce distortion. How near to NM does a record need to be? Very freaking close to brand new. BTW in the world of coin collecting over-grading isn't as much a problem. (since coins are not played on turntables :nyah: ) Most records have been played at least once on a mass produced record changer, some of them in poor service. If someone (or myself) could somehow force the hand, gently force the graders to understand what scoring looks like, and then associate the visual to what that sounds like... I believe grading would improve significantly.
    SteveM likes this.
  10. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    Me too.
    And I love records!
    Man at C&A and SteveM like this.
  11. raye_penber

    raye_penber Writer

    Sadly, the majority of sellers on Discogs will refuse to playgrade, and only visually inspect (which is a useless practice, IME, to the casual, untrained grader). Some sellers will take a listen when prompted, but I find this to be the exception and not the rule sadly.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  12. Man at C&A

    Man at C&A Forum Resident

    Same with me. I'm a near lifelong record buyer, since I was five years old. I bought them as much as I ever have all the way through the CD era. Over the last few years the vinyl market has got too expensive for new and second hand stuff, so I can't afford to take chances on something I don't know or buy established artists whole catalogue on vinyl.

    With CDs there are so many available cheap now that I've been buying loads of stuff that costs a fortune on vinyl and albums I wouldn't have thought of buying new or at a high price that I've ended up liking a lot.

    Unless you're are very well off, for the curious, passionate, very interested and open minded music lover CDs are where it's at, like vinyl once was.
    Sear likes this.
  13. thematinggame

    thematinggame Forum Resident

    There needs to be a balance between cost and effort .- I don't think you can expect a dealer who has just acquired a few hundred records which are priced between $ 5- 15 to playgrade every single album , we should not forget that records are fairly low-priced consumer goods (cf to clothes, furniture , electonic goods etc) and I think only when you sell a higher priced album ,either a collector's item or an audiophile record , a seller should playgrade before listing it for sale . Playgrading on demand of the seller , however, should always be possible and if a dealer refuses to do so , you can easily ignore him/her - the OPs ideas and suggestion sound good in theory but are hardly practicable
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  14. cdnostalgia

    cdnostalgia Forum Resident

    Talk about solving 2+2 with a neutron equation
    MrSka57 likes this.
  15. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    I absolutely think there should be a new and finer grained system of grading for records intended to be sent by mail to the purchaser. It is unrealistic to expect every inexpensive record to be play graded, but optionally doing so should result in a higher grade. I think the new model should reflect the types of things one looks at while evaluating a used record at a store or record fair. For example, spindle trails should be separately called out and graded as a useful indication of what the record has seen in its past.

    4 = record is sealed, cannot be determined
    3 = absolutely no spindle trails present on label
    2 = one or two small visible spindle trails, maybe on just one side.
    1 = a number of visible trails on each side, curving out from the center hole more than 1/4"
    0 = dozens of visible trails

    Or for cover spine wear (here oriented towards US covers)

    4 = sealed and/or visually perfect
    3 = possibly trivial but visible wear, especially at spine ends, but all text clear and dark
    2 = any faded text or visible soil, any creasing to gatefold covers
    1 = any paper loss or chipping, even if spine is intact
    0 = any splitting of spine, even 1/4" at center

    Perhaps 6-8 separate attributes of this sort, standardized and easy and quick to precisely grade, would better describe a $5-15 used record than "VG+"
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  16. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The playgrade should list the turntable and cartridge performing the test. The playgrade otherwise is meaningless. Thank you for your feedback. I feel my grading system needs to be edited, condensed to fewer words. The challenge is to make it readable and flowing, but also detailed enough to be useful.
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  17. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    As others have said, you need to make it easily digestible/concise.

    But the bigger problem is that people either don't really know how to properly grade, or else they are too eager to overgrade.

    I watched this how grading matured in the coin collecting hobby. When I started, things were graded as Poor/Fair/About Good/Good/Very Good/Fine/Very Fine/Extremely Fine/About Uncirculated/Uncirculated/Proof.

    In the early/mid '70s, as investors took over the field, things moved to a 70 point system. And just 1 or 2 points on that scale, near the upper range, could mean a HUGE difference in value. The same issues with grading existed as always (and as exist with records), but then they started "slabbing" the coins, putting them in a non-tamperable casing that also encased the grade assigned by a "professional." It fixed a lot of problems for those who wanted to spend investment type money. (But it kind of sucked for the feel of the community).

    Anyway, you can't really slab a record album (and if you do, you can't listen to it), so I don't see how you make that leap to a more reliable system. But I've been here before, and if you get what you want, you may not like it.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  18. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Main issue I have is not only is the grading not followed by most but also the names of the grade.

    G is "Good"? Uh, not in my world, it's not. Something that is graded as G goes in the trash.

    Grading for me should be ;

    Mint - only for sealed albums.
    NM - basically perfect or nearly perfect opened albums.
    VG - a notch below perfect ; several but not many low-level ticks and pops.
    OK - a beater copy that's still listenable by some standards
    Poor - snap, crackle, pop fest.

    None of that + or - BS. Just a straightforward grading system like this would be fine but the problem is people's standards are all over the place. What I judge to be a flawed album might be considered by others to be nearly perfect. Then, if I'm using a microline stylus and someone else is using a conical, there will be a huge discrepancy in the amount of noise heard when playing the same record.

    And that's where the subtleties lie and things start to get complicated.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  19. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Exactly, "Pluses" are given to records which have flaws, which by definition should be minuses. I have attempted to name "collector standard" (std) as the reference grade. Only "collector plus", or Mint, exceeds it. I have been present on many occasion, that an absolutely beautiful record will be refereed as "mint" or "pristine", "flawless" which surpasses any minor scuffs normally found at "collector standard". I disagree with Goldmine, which infers mint does not exist. Of course, the fineness of mint state may vary if someone looks under a microscope... But I hope record grading never becomes that fine.

    The other grades are demerits, as opposed to pluses and minuses. I have inserted a flex clause (sort of a bottom line) "if the record looks and sounds acceptable to you, then it is acceptable" ... "if the record looks and sounds bad, then it is LOW grade." This may or may not be a good idea!
  20. MrSka57

    MrSka57 Forum Resident

    Syracuse, New York
    Useful only if you can audition the LP before purchasing,
    otherwise it's trust your eyeballs and cross your fingers.

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