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Record Collector U.K. / Goldmine U.S. - Vinyl grading systems

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Chris R, Sep 12, 2003.

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  1. Chris R

    Chris R Forum Fones Thread Starter

    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?
  2. ArneW

    ArneW Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    I have never bought an LP in less than NM condition unless it was cheap and I was unable to find it in superior condition. If someone offers an original 1960s Verve or Blue Note LP in VG+ condition it usually means "campfire". In general, these records would be almost worthless if there was a decent pressing still in print.

  3. Joe Koz

    Joe Koz Prodigal Bone Brother™ In Memoriam

    Unfortunately, playing the record is proof in the pudding.
    bigredheadone likes this.
  4. Steven

    Steven Forum Resident

    Lambertville, NJ
    That isn't the Goldmine Grading Guide as I've seen it on most websites and in a Goldmine Record Guide book. That version is greatly embellished. This is the more simple, official Goldmine Guide:

    Goldmine Grading Guide
    © Goldmine magazine


    This grading guide is reprinted from Goldmine magazine, which is considered to be the standard for record collectors worldwide.

    Mint | Near Mint | Very Good Plus | Very Good | Good/Good Plus | Poor/Fair

    Mint (M): Absolutely perfect in every way - certainly never played, possibly even still sealed. (More on still sealed below). 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 shows no obvious sign of wear. A 45 rpm sleeve has no more than the most minor defects, such as almost invisible ring wear or other signs of slight handling.
    An LP jacket has no creases, folds, seam splits or any other noticeable similar defect. No cut-out holes, either. And of course, the same is true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, and the like. Basically, Near Mint looks as if you just got it home from a new record store and removed the shrink wrap.

    Very Good Plus (VG+): Shows 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 sign are OK.
    The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but is should be barely noticeable. The center hole is not misshapen by repeated play. Picture sleeves and LP inner sleeves will have some slight wear, lightly turn-up corners, or a slight seam-split. An LP jacket my 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 of 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.

    Very Good (VG): Many of the defects found in a VG+ record are more pronounced in a VG disc. Surface noise is evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during the 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 of 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.
    A jacket or sleeve has seem 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.

    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/or writing. The LP jacket barely keeps the LP inside it. Inner sleeves are fully seam split, 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.

    Still Sealed (SS) : Let the buyer beware, unless it's a U.S. pressing from the last 10-15 years or so. It's too easy to reseal on. Yes, some legitimately never-opened LPs from the 1960s still exist. But if you're looking for a specific pressing, the only way you can know for sure is to open the record. Also, European imports are not factory-sealed, so if you see them advertised as sealed, someone other than the manufacturer sealed them.
  5. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    The best grading system I've seen (if adhered to properly) was the one from the old Good Rockin' Tonight/Collectors Universe auctions. It was a 10 point numbered scale, where 8 was the grade for a typical M-/NM record, and 9 & 10 (Mint and Gem Mint) were used sparingly. Obviously people could use this grading system for their own use modified with grades like 7.5, 8.5, etc., to grade records that are too nice for one grade, but not quite nice enough for the following grade.
  6. Bruce Burgess

    Bruce Burgess Senior Member

    Hamilton, Canada
    I think that a big part of the problem is that seller's are basing their ratings solely on the visual appearance of the vinyl. In fact many will admit to not having heard the album.

    While this might be acceptable when selling used records for a dollar or two, this is not good enough, when putting records up for auction or selling them for large amounts of money. If people are bidding twenty or thirty dollars for an LP, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a listenable album.
    bigredheadone likes this.
  7. stenway

    stenway Forum Resident

    I use and I like that! guide, that guide is the official.

    things that I hate from some sellers on ebay or discogs, or other online sites:

    1. EX and EX+ Dont Exist! stop use it, also to stop use VG++ (double plus dont exist) or Strongest VG+ or things like that...

    2. when an unexpert record collector seller says "oh! is a very old record, you need understand that so is not in great condition, have 35 years old, so is not in good condition" time dont matter, the only thing than matter is the ACTUAL condition of the record!!! you need grade bases in what you have in your hands today, not matter if have 100 years o 1 day.

    3. for open NEW records some sellers say "sorry if the record is scratch or damage, is not my fault, the record is new... if its damage the fault is from the fabric! manufacture company" that is not honest! again the only important thing is the ACTUAL condition of the record, if have 100 years old or is new from fabric, you need check every detail even is new and open and grade based in what you have today! in your hands using the goldmine grade. Also if its sealed, need describe well the corners, shrink damage etc...

    grade is a simple thing if you are an honest seller :D
    bigredheadone likes this.
  8. progmog

    progmog Forum Resident

    United Kingdom
    For sure there a many sellers over-grading on eBay to ensure they get top dollar for their records, but a large part of the problem is that they grade visually, without even listening to them. I very rarely buy on eBay these days, but if I do, I always ask if the grade is a visual one or a listening grade. If the response is "visual only", I don't bother bidding, no matter how badly I want the record.
    bigredheadone likes this.
  9. Phil4

    Phil4 Active Member

    I play grade all my records now for ebay as I've got some genuine mint ones that sound like crap
    bigredheadone likes this.
  10. EdogawaRampo

    EdogawaRampo Senior Member

    Both the US Goldmine and UK Record Collector grading systems are fine as they are. It's the people doing the grading that are the problem. Just like schools -- there is a huge problem with grade inflation these days. Been going on quite some time.
  11. Yep!
    bigredheadone likes this.
  12. Phil4

    Phil4 Active Member

    Would any of you buy a record that is correctly graded as VG?
  13. EdogawaRampo

    EdogawaRampo Senior Member

    No. The problem is that a correctly graded VG+ record should be fine. Though not perfect it should be perfectly satisfying and a very nice listen. I haven't risked a VG+ record for nearly 15 years. In modern practice, it means trashed IMO.
  14. stenway

    stenway Forum Resident

    why a record that looks visually totally mint inmaculate.... without any single scratch any single fine little faint... can be sound like a crap???
    I think if sound like crap is because even new that press always sounded like a crap.

    I usually try to find sealed/new records online, yes is more expensive... but is untouched... or trully mint's even is visually I ask a lot for sings to be played... and of course just buy good pressings recommended for other members in this great forum.
  15. sempol451

    sempol451 New Member

    Have got an interesting question about grading to ask. When I was listening to an Australian Jimi Hendrix LP (a 2LP live album), I noticed that there's a slight skip (aprroximately 10 seconds, possibly due to a scratch) at the beginning of one side of one record. The rest sounds well, with only a little background noise if any (at least it doesn't cause any discomfort when listening to and does not overcome the music). I'm not going to sell this record, but I'm still curious about how should one grade this one when it comes to grading. I think that grading the record G or less for only one slight skip is a little bit unfair, but over-grading is unfair as well. What do you think?
  16. kippenhok

    kippenhok Forum Resident

    I would like to see such a record be graded G or less. The loss of music would be a dealbreaker for me, even if the rest of the album is in mint condition
  17. Six String

    Six String Senior Member

    I think you should rate the record as it is minus the scratch but then describe the scratch accurately, i.e. two inch scratch
    on track three, side one, and list if it is audible or not, bonus points for listing the number of ticks the scratch makes before it goes away. Any defect should be described so that it doesn't surprise the buyer when they get it. If a record is in beautiful shape except for a scratch then I agree as long as the description is detailed enough.
  18. Lashing

    Lashing Well-Known Member

    I no longer buy off Ebay unless its a seller that has proven themselves to me in the past. To many people are putting NM on everything to get the highest price. Then you get it and its scratched and filthy. These people are always the most argumentative as well. Ebay is trying to make returns more punishing to sellers by requiring them to pay the return shipping now. But all that does is increase buyer abuse to honest sellers IMO.

    The sad fact is Ebay cannot stop weasels from being weasels. And weasels have no interest is not being weasels. Until we punish these fools on a daily basis by not tolerating them, they will continue to ruin things. In Japan for instance, weasels are a shame and they are very good over there at cutting off such people in day to day life. They are "ghosts" to the average person. I like that. Its a very peaceful yet effective way of dealing with such miscreants.

    For starters, leave negative feedback in a calm, crisp, intelligent and factual summary.
    bigredheadone and zphage like this.
  19. jeffmissinne

    jeffmissinne Forum Resident

    In my experience, I've found more over-graded junk on Discogs and Musicstack than on Ebay. Some dealers are better than others, true; I recently had an experience with one who listed items that were out of stock, short-shipped my order rather than allowing me to choose substitute items first, sold warped, scratched, or otherwise defective records as "VG" or "VG+", and wouldn't offer a refund but only "credit" for which I received more rubbish records.
    bigredheadone and stenway like this.
  20. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    I've posted this before...

    The UK Record Collector system is significantly different from the US Goldmine vinyl grading system. It's important to know how they compare. This is how it's supposed to work:

    UK Near Mint = Goldmine Near Mint
    UK Excellent+ = Goldmine VG++
    UK Excellent = Goldmine VG+
    UK VG+ = Goldmine VG to VG-
    UK VG = Goldmine VG to VG-

    Anything below VG- will be seriously trashed. Actually, once a UK dealer uses any VG type grade (VG or VG++++++, or whatever) you are getting into "trashed" territory. That's how it works, in my experience.

    It's very important to understand that UK "Excellent" tends to describe run-of-the-mill, average playing records, with maybe some ticks and pops and moderate surface noise, but no skips. It seems many US buyers expect that UK "Excellent" will mean a fantastic, pristine audiophile grade copy, even above Goldmine VG++. But that is not understanding the Record Collector system, in my experience.

    Basically, if you want audiophile grade vinyl from UK sellers, only buy EX+ (the plus is very important) or Mint from reputable sellers.
    Dino likes this.
  21. J Vanarsdale

    J Vanarsdale Forum Resident

    Records straight from the pressing plant are 99% of the time not mint and perfect. They are handled by factory personnel, there is dust in the rooms, corners are slightly bent during shrinkwrapping or shipping, the list goes on.

    EX is a real grade and should be used, there is far too much room between VG+ and NM, it's just too vague to only use those and not an in between grade. Especially when most collectors consider VG to be very rough condition. Might as well mean "very grimey". I prefer the UK Record Collector system.
  22. stenway

    stenway Forum Resident

    I like the discogs grade: https://www.discogs.com/help/doc/mp-grading I used when I grade my records or sell,

    when I sell and sellers get the records even some sellers say "hey! this looks a lot better than VG+, looks mint to me" so to me is better grade strict, never overgrade records.

    I like because is STRAIGHT, not middle stupid DISHOSNEST! things like VG++++, Strongest VG, near mint MINUS (seriously WTF is near mint minus!!! VG+ ??? lol) or Mint Minus (mint minus say to me Near Mint) so again I like because is strict, is simple:
    M, NM, VG+, VG, Good (G), Good Plus (G+), Poor (P), Fair (F) and that is! (and yes not EX, EX+, a lot sellers use EX+ to describe truly VG+ records and that is not correct).
    bigredheadone likes this.
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