Record Grading 101: Understanding The Goldmine Grading Guide

Sealed Albums
Still-sealed albums can — and do — bring even higher prices than listed.

However, one must be careful when paying a premium for sealed LPs of any kind for several reasons:

  • 1. They may have been re-sealed;
  • 2. The records might not be in Near Mint condition;
  • 3. The record inside might not be the original pressing or the most desirable pressing;
  • 4. Most bizarre of all, the wrong record might be inside. I’ve had this happen to me; I opened a sealed album by one MCA artist only to find a record by a different MCA artist inside! Fortunately, I didn’t pay a lot for that sealed LP. I would have been quite upset if I had!

Imports
The Goldmine® Record Album Price Guide
lists only those vinyl LPs manufactured in the United States or, in a few instances, manufactured in other countries, but specifically for release in the United States. Any record that fits the following criteria is an import, and you won’t find it in the price guide:

  • • LPs on the Parlophone label by any artist, at least before 2000. Parlophone, best known as the Beatles’ British label, was not used as a label in the United States until very recently.
  • • LPs that have the letters “BIEM,” “GEMA” or “MAPL” on them.
  • • LPs that say anywhere on the label or cover, “Made in Canada,” “Made in the UK,” “Made in Germany,” etc.

We have chosen not to list records from Great Britain, Canada, Japan or any other nation for logistical reasons. Where do you start, and where do you stop?

Unfortunately, we realize that there is a lack of reliable information on the value of non-U.S. records, especially published in the United States. Please don’t contact us seeking information on non-U.S. records; we cannot help.

Also unfortunately, there are few general rules about the value of an import as compared to an American edition.

Some import albums, especially well-made Japanese imports that still have their “obi strip,” can go for more than the U.S. counterpart. Others seem to attract little interest in the States.

One rule is just as true of imports as it is with U.S. records: Those discs that are originals in the best condition will sell for more than reissues and those in less than top-notch shape.

Promotional Copies
Basically, a promotional record is any copy of a record not meant for retail sale. Different labels identify these in different ways: The most common method on LPs is to use a white label instead of the regular-color label and/or to add words such as the following:

  • “Demonstration — Not for Sale”
  • “Audition Record”
  • “For Radio-TV Use Only”
  • “Promotional Copy”

Some labels, of course, used colors other than white; still others used the same labels as their stock copies, but added a promotional disclaimer to the label.

Most promotional albums have the same catalog number as the regular release, except for those differences.

Sometimes, regular stock copies have a “Demonstration — Not for Sale” or “Promo” rubber stamped on the cover; these are known as “designate promos” and are not of the same cachet as true promotional records. Treat these as stock copies that have been defaced. Exceptions are noted in the listings.

All of this is mentioned as a means of identification. As a rule, we do not list promotional records separately, nor are we interested in doing so. There are exceptions, which we will list below. But we feel that the precious space in our guides is better used for unique commercially available records rather than for thousands upon thousands of promotional copies.

Most promotional LPs sell for approximately the same as a stock copy of the same catalog number. That has been our experience.

However, there are certain exceptions. Those are the kinds of promos that you’ll find documented in our price guide, and which we plan to continue to document. These include:

  • Colored vinyl promos.
  • Promos in special numbering series, such as Columbia albums with an “AS” or “CAS” prefix; Warner Bros, albums with a “PRO” or “PRO-A-” prefix; Capitol albums with a “PRO” or “SPRO” prefix; Mercury albums with an “MK” prefix; and other similar series on other labels.
  • Promos that are somehow different than the released versions, either because of changes in the cover or changes in the music between the promo LP and the regular-stock LP.
  • Promos pressed on special high-quality vinyl; these were popular in the 1980s and can bring a premium above stock copies of the same titles.

Other Goldmine® Price Guides:
• Goldmine® Price Guide to 45 RPM Records, 7th Edition
• Goldmine® Standard Catalog of American Records, 1950-1975, 6th Edition

7 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

  6. Pingback: Native Speaker: An Intro to Record Terms

Leave a Reply