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How to Grade Vinyl Records

Updated on January 20, 2013

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.


Sealed, never opened, never played. In "new"/perfect condition.
Sealed, never opened, never played. In "new"/perfect condition. | Source


Not sealed, but has original artwork and sleeve. No scratches/scuffs. Plays as if new.
Not sealed, but has original artwork and sleeve. No scratches/scuffs. Plays as if new. | Source

The Basics

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


Some visible wear to the sleeve. The vinyl, however, is in great condition; still plays!
Some visible wear to the sleeve. The vinyl, however, is in great condition; still plays! | Source


Obvious wear to the label. No sleeve. Some scuffs and scratches. Still plays just fine, but is not in the best condition.
Obvious wear to the label. No sleeve. Some scuffs and scratches. Still plays just fine, but is not in the best condition. | Source

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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    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I hope that they don't! :) Thank you for your comment.

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      5 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thanks for your nifty and a really astounding guide (due to lots of terminology I've never imagined), I love vinyls. And I believe vinyls will never die. Voted up, useful and awesome. :)

    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA


      That's funny that you had a Shaun Cassidy LP! I can't say that I blame you for that! =]

      I am going to have to reread that hub! That is funny!

      Thank you for your continued support and kind words!


      It is quite interesting. When I first entered the world of vinyl, I admit that it was a bit overwhelming. I enjoy it, though, and have learned so much. =]

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Wow, I knew there were a lot of vinyl enthusiasts out there but I had no idea how much terminology and how detailed the collecting was - very interesting!

    • SanneL profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      Veronica -- I learn so much from you!

      It's a shame I don't have any of my old vinyls left in my possessions. And yes, I owned a Shaun Cassidy LP, that was MINE! Hehe!

      The grading terms of the vinyls reminds me a little bit of the abbreviation terms and grading terms on tea that I wrote a hub about. Funny!

      This hub was of great interest.

      Voted up and awesome.


    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      You are welcome! Thank you for taking the time to read this hub, and I hope that it was helpful! Vinyls are so much fun, and there is an endless amount to learn about them, it seems! lol Good luck! =]

    • redwriterbb profile image


      7 years ago from Norfolk/Virginia Beach Area

      I am a beginner as a vinyl enthusiast and have everything to learn. Thank you.

    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Thank you!

      You're welcome for the link. It's a great hub!

      That's somewhat why I created this: to help educate. There's quite a bit to know -as with most things- and I figure I'd start at the bottom. Now, though, I'm not sure where to go/what to write next. lol

    • alwritetea profile image

      Lisa Sumner 

      7 years ago from Vancouver

      Great hub! As a fellow vinyl enthusiast, I particularly enjoyed the terminology section. So many people miss these shortcuts altogether, then whine about it after receiving their record with a stated cut-out, etc.

      Thanks so much for including a link to one of my hubs on vinyl too! Cheers and voted up!


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