Record Grading 101: Understanding The Goldmine Grading Guide

VERY GOOD PLUS (VG+)
or EXCELLENT (E)

A good description of a VG+ record is “except for a couple minor things, this would be Near Mint.” Most collectors, especially those who want to play their records, will be happy with a VG+ record, especially if it toward the high end of the grade (sometimes called VG++ or E+).

VG+ records may show some slight signs of wear, including light scuffs or very light scratches that do not affect the listening experience. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are OK. Minor signs of handling are OK, too, such as telltale marks around the center hole, but repeated playing has not misshapen the hole. There may be some very light ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable.

VG+ covers should have only minor wear. A VG+ cover might have some very minor seam wear or a split (less than one inch long) at the bottom, the most vulnerable location. Also, a VG+ cover may have some defacing, such as a cut-out marking. Covers with cut-out markings can never be considered Near Mint.

Very Good (VG)
Many of the imperfections found on a VG+ record are more obvious on a VG record. That said, VG records — which usually sell for no more than 25 percent of a NM record — are among the biggest bargains in record collecting, because most of the “big money” goes for more perfect copies. For many listeners, a VG record or sleeve will be worth the money.

VG records have more obvious flaws than their counterparts in better shape. They lack most of the original gloss found on factory-fresh records. Groove wear is evident on sight, as are light scratches deep enough to feel with a fingernail. When played, a VG record has surface noise, and some scratches may be audible, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and ending. But the noise will not overpower the music otherwise.

Minor writing, tape or a sticker can detract from the label. Many collectors who have jukeboxes will use VG records in them and not think twice. They remain a fine listening experience, just not the same as if it were in better shape.

VG covers will have many signs of human handling. Ring wear in the middle or along the edges of the cover where the edge of a record would reside, is obvious, though not overwhelming. Some more creases might be visible. Seam splitting will be more obvious; it may appear on all three sides, though it won’t be obvious upon looking. Someone might have written or it or stamped a price tag on it, too.

Good (G),
Good Plus (G+)
or Very Good Minus (VG–)

These records go for 10 to 15 percent of the Near Mint value, if you are lucky.

Good does not mean bad! The record still plays through without skipping, so it can serve as filler until something better comes along. But it has significant surface noise and groove wear, and the label is worn, with significant ring wear, heavy writing, or obvious damage caused by someone trying to remove tape or stickers and failing miserably. A Good to VG– cover has ring wear to the point of distraction, has seam splits obvious on sight and may have even heavier writing, such as, for example, huge radio station letters written across the front to deter theft.

If the item is common, it’s probably better to pass it up. But if you’ve been seeking it for a long time, get it cheap and look to upgrade.

POOR (P)
and Fair (F)

Poor (P) and Fair (F) records go for 0 to 5 percent of the Near Mint value, if they go at all. More likely, they end up going in the trash. Records are cracked, impossibly warped, or skip and/or repeat when an attempt is made to play them. Covers are so heavily damaged that you almost want to cry.

Only the most outrageously rare items ever sell for more than a few cents in this condition — again, if they sell at all.

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6 thoughts on “Record Grading 101: Understanding The Goldmine Grading Guide

  1. I’m sorry, but really to keep the grading of Lp’s less of a mystery to the average (and not so average) Joe, a VG+ record should be just that. It shouldn’t be also named “Excellent”, or allowed to be denoted with a +,or ++.
    If it deserves a higher or lower grade, assign it that. Too many sellers try and over grade their records, leaving the buyer frustrated especially when purchased over the Internet.

    Either it is a Very Good Plus Lp, or it is flawed and down graded to a Very Good rating.

  2. Only people that don’t need to use VG++ are people that overgrade things and just call it NM-. I’ll use VG++ anyday, but NM- once in a blue moon.

  3. How about someone comes up with a grading scale that actually makes sense. If a “Good” condition record is not actually “Good”, why then do we call it “Good”. This is grade school stuff here…And that’s not to mention that the grading scale is still vague/incomplete. There is no scale for anything between those grades. This is what has led people to use “VG++”…although in those cases it’s quite common to find out that they really didn’t know what they were talking about after all…which just adds to the confusion when buying.

    I do think someone could make a much better grading scale, but more importantly, ask the seller detailed questions before you buy. There is no substitute for a personalized assessment of each individual record. There’s just too much middle ground and grey area, in addition to people grading from an inflated scale who already don’t know what they’re talking about.

  4. All this is good for records that have been opened or played. I might sound like everyone else when i say this but its true. My record has never been opened or played so i dont want to open it to grade it. What do i do?

  5. A Still-Sealed record is the record-collecting equivalent of Schrodinger’s cat. In the physics postulation, a cat placed inside a box could be either dead or alive (some interpretations say at some point, the cat is simultaneously dead AND alive), depending on a series of random events, and for which the result is unknown until the box is opened.

    Once the seal is broken on the album, you probably won’t find a cat in any condition, but you may find any number of things that could decrease its value — a damaged disc, a mis-labeled record, even the wrong record packaged inside (which does happen more often than you think).

    If your record is still factory sealed, leave it that way to maintain the potential value, and be sure to note that the record is in Still Sealed (SS) condition. If you suspect at all that the seal is NOT a factory seal — it is possible to re-wrap an already-opened album and pass it off as otherwise — get another opinion from a trustworthy dealer or appraiser before you open or sell it. Should you decide to sell this record and have had an appraiser or dealer assess that it is a factory-sealed record, be sure to note that the record has been inspected by an expert and determined to be in SS condition..

    That said, Still Sealed doesn’t mean Mint. Inspect the record and its package for things that you can see without breaking the seal. Is the cover dinged, creased or bent? Is there any kind of fading or sun damage, etc. that you can discern? Be sure to note those imperfections, as they can weigh into the record’s overall condition and ultimate value.

    Good luck!
    – Susan

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