How to Grade Vinyl Records
Vinyl... it's still in style!
Flat disc records were first founded in 1888 by Emile Berliner, and continued to improve upon the original product for years to come. As vinyl continued to be improved, in the materials used, size, and space allotted on the disc, it was not until 1948 when Columbia Records first developed a long-running vinyl (previously, shellac was used) record, thus changing musical recording history. RCA developed the first 45 rpm shortly thereafter.
The music industry boomed, as music was able to be heard all around the world, via vinyl records.
Although we now have CD's, MP3s and MP4s, cloud storage space, and with even more sophisticated means of hearing music inevitably on the way, vinyls are still a popular medium. Disc jockeys spin records in clubs, collectors hunt tirelessly for mint, timeless originals, and die-hard music lovers still play favorites on the box.
Whether you are interested in buying or selling vinyl records, or are intrigued enough to want to know more in general, the grading scale is a good place to start.
Grading terms defined:
M = Mint = Perfect condition
NM = M- = Near Mint = Near perfect condition
EX = Excellent
VG+ = Very good plus
VG = Very good
G = Good
The Grading Scale
Mint. Everything about the record is in perfect condition; no wear on the sleeve, no scratches on the vinyl. The record plays beautifully with no hiccups. Nothing is missing from the package; as if it has just been produced. Mint can also mean that the record is sealed and has never been opened, let alone played.
Near Mint. [Some may consider this ranking to be above EX, but I consider them one in the same.] EX. VG++ Basically the same as mint, but with a little leeway in the packaging. As in, the (original) sleeve may show a bit of wear, like a small bend in a corner. The vinyl itself is still in perfect condition, and plays without flaw. There may be a bit of visible scuffing, but -with a good, thorough clean- will disappear.
VG+. The vinyl is in great condition. There may be a few scuffs, and a couple of minor scratches, but still plays as if it were new. The original sleeve may have some wear, and possibly a couple of pen marks (what girl in the 70's didn't want the world to know that she owned a Shaun Cassidy LP? "It's MINE!") - maybe the initials or name of a previous owner. All in all, VG+ means that the record is in playing order, but that something is defective in the presentation. There may be wear to the label on the vinyl or pricing stickers on the sleeve. [[The defect is visibly noticeable, but does not hinder the playing of the vinyl.]]
VG. Now, we get to the bottom of the batting order. The record may not have the original sleeve, and may have some larger scratches, but will still... play. Collectors may turn their head to anything VG or lower, but music buffs may still be interested. The vinyl will probably need cleaned, and -even then- will still only be just good. VG is used for records that have had some love in its day, but may need to be "shelved" for a while.
G. Not really worth it. G is the broken toy donated to goodwill, or the hand-me-down sweater that birthed it's second hole in the pit. The record will still play, but not well. There will probably be some crackling or hissing when played, but the music is still there. The record is not chipped or broken, but has some rather large, ominous scratches. The sleeve has been long-gone for years, and you may not even be able to read the artist on the label. The vinyl needs some major TLC.
Fair. Does not play well at all. Unless using for a specific purpose (like mixing/scratching), records in fair condition really should not be played. Very noticeable wear; unsaleable.
Broken. Does not play. You may want to consider turning it into a piece of art, or using it for skeet practice.
Common Vinyl Terminology
Below are some common abbreviations or terms used when discussing anything vinyl:
- CC = Cut corner
- EP = A record with 2-3 tracks per side
- FS = Factory sealed
- HR = Highly recommended/rated
- LP = Long play; more than 4-5 tracks per side
- M = Mono (how the record was recorded/will play
- S = Stereo (how the record was recorded/will play)
- OOP = Out of print; no longer produced
- SOC = Sticker on cover
- SOB = Sticker on back cover
- NO-PS = No picture sleeve
- TOC = Tape or tear on cover
- WOL = Writing on label
- WOC = Writing on cover
- WOB = Writing on back cover
- PS = Picture Sleeve
- Single = Has 1 track on each side
- NOC = Non-original cover
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