As most of you know, I have had some terrible experiences recently on eBay, so I thought I'd start a thread and we can discuss vinyl grading. I'll keep the descriptions to the actual vinyl itself, and not the LP jackets. There are two systems that I am aware of. 1. Record Collector Magazine U.K. Mint - The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration of sound quality. Excellent - The record shows some signs of having been played but there is lessening of sound quality. Very Good (VG) - The record has obviously been played many times but displays no deterioration of sound quality, despite noticeable surface marks and an occasional light scratch. Good - The record has been played so much the sound quallity has noticeably deteriorated perhaps with some distortion and mild scratches. Fair - The record is still just playable but has not been cared for properly and displays considerable surface noise. It may even jump. Poor - The record will not play properly due to scratches, bad surface noise, etc. Bad - The record is unplayable and might even be broken and is only of use as a collection filler. ____________________ 2. Goldmine Magazine Vinyl Grading System I wish they had a Coles Notes version of their grading system. 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. 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. 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. ________________________ 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. EX (VG++) 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! ____________________________ 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 grade! VG+ VINYL - Now for LP's (the big ones). 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 great. _____________________________ VERY 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. IMPORTANT NOTE: 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 (a s 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. _____________________________ GOOD 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. _______________________________ And finally... 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. ___________________ My take on this whole eBay thing is that vinyl sellers, particularly with Beatles, Stones, etc., are grading their LPs way too high. This was the case in all the mono U.K. Beatles LPs I've won on eBay since January. Based on the Record Collector grading system, I would rate those two S African Beatles LPs I received the other day, as Fair to Poor. Some of you heard the samples. For those who didn't see the actual auction, the seller graded the Sgt. Pepper's LP as VG+. Interesting since that grading isn't used in the U.K. AND, big difference between VG+ and Fair. What I suspect is, if sellers went on eBay and graded their LPs fairly, such as using Good or Fair, they wouldn't sell. What gets me is that there aren't more people raising concerns like I am. Some of the sellers I have dealt with have had ratings of 98-99% with hundreds of feedbacks. The U.K. seller of the S African Beatles LP questioned in his E-mail to me, whether my expecations might have been too high. I don't think so. What are your thoughts?