Record Grading 101: Understanding The Goldmine Grading Guide

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!

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.

Click here to check out the latest price guides from Goldmine.


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About Patrick Prince

Patrick Prince is the Editor of Goldmine

18 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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  7. OK. I have a 1963 Beatles fifth pressing UK Please ,Please Me album. In the UK they never used shrink wrap. ( All my Beatles are UK or Italian first pressing,or in the year. Hence PPM came out with first pressing Gold labels 1. Mono 2. Stereo,the the yellow labels without the ” first published in 1963″ on labels ,hence 3. Mono,4. Stereo,then the fifth pressing,I own Mono,but with ” first published in 1963 ” on labels . This makes it a fifth pressing,although still within months of first pressing,technically. It should be the third pressing,but collectors consider mono and stereo as being 1,2,3 and 4.
    Parlophone rims etc.
    Now,on to,the grading . This PPM has an E J Day cover. These are laminated on front and on flipbacks of rear of cover,and has the thin tissue Emitex poly lined inner sleeve. This record has NEVER been played. It has however,been on a turntable for a few revolutions to be certain it’s flat . ( It is ) no lines coming off around spindle hole . However,it has been in and out of the Emitex inner sleeve several times, each time it leaves a ” trace ” these are possibly considered hairlines,but they are not even that . There are no scratches and labels appear as new . The cover has a couple laminate lifts. When you bought a record in London in 1963,they were in bins and each time someone took any given record out to look at,it left a trace of something ,and the covers ALWAYS paid the price . The only Beatles first sixties pressings without ANY laminate lift or lacking any inner sleeve removal marks are an anomaly . Most likely kept stored by someone in the music business .
    I’ve had quite a few I never played ,but all have similar small thumbnail laminate lifts ( these are over fifty years old now ) and records ,even unplayed have ” inner sleeve removal ” hairlines .
    How could you possibly claim a record that was never played is less than Near Mint ? Also, remember ,I have babied these albums. All records have been transferred to poly lined padded inner sleeves ,and original Emitex,remain in the covers .
    I’m about to sell off a few Beatles albums of this nature. These are very,very rare . Not in the sense of the records ( they sold in the tens of millions ,in some cases ) but rather an unplayed vinyl record,with a cover that looks like it did the day it was original sold fifty some odd years ago. Labels look as new. But ,again,you can see several sleeve removals under strong or natural light.
    Any thoughts on how to sell for premium price,for a premium record ? Ps. E bays grading is a joke . Especially UK sellers .
    I’m in San Francisco … Wish I could post pix…

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  10. Agreed that many people selling records have no idea how to properly grade them. The sometimes vague standards don’t help. I think we’ve all bought records ‘claimed’ to be NM or NM- only to find readily apparent hairlines and scratches on them that we know the records are definitely not NM or NM-. Many people don’t know how to handle a “scratch” vs. a “hairline” in terms of grading.. isn’t a hairline still a scratch even if its only visible at a certain angle of light? Grading for covers/picture sleeves can also be all over the place, too, but it seems to be slightly better (an actual grade compared to what is advertised) than for the actual vinyl.

    I collect mostly Beatles US records and from my years experience, I’ve seen grades all over the place compared to what I would grade an item as either using Goldmine standards or the grading standards from the Cox/Daniels Beatles (2009) price guide. Personally, I prefer the grading standards of the Cox/Daniels guide as it’s a bit more specific such as b/w NM- and VG+ about exactly the differences are. They also don’t differentiate b/w “a scratch” or “a hairline”.

    Personally, I would prefer using VG, VG+, NM-, NM, etc. The “-” and “+” I think help fill in the gaps b/w things like VG and NM and many times, helps ‘declare’ an accurate grade closer to what it really is.

    It would be best for record sellers to simply state clearly if they don’t know how to properly grade records/covers. The Goldmine standards are a good start, but often leave a bit to be desired when it comes to those of us who buy to collect or even resell.

    Speaking of manufacturing errors as noted above.. back in 1987 or so, I bought the Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” on CD when it came out only to find a Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band CD in the Beatles sealed case. Of course, original sealed Beatles LPs are very rare and the earlier (pre-1967) copies can fairly easily be determined/verified what is really inside without opening the seal by looking at the manufacture info on the cover or even seeing a touch of the inner sleeve since Capitol changed these every so often.

  11. Also, on sites like Discogs, eBay, etc., it would be nice (wishful thinking) that when someone is listing a record for sale, it would list record grading standards in the data entry section so when the seller is inputting info, they can see what the various grades mean. I would help help us buyers have a little better chance of actually getting an accurately graded item. Just my $0.02.

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  14. I find Goldmine Grading in quite stupid. Because of these “+” after VG and G. It’s like in School: Mom I’ve got today Mathe 2+, Physics 2 and Chemistry 3+ – bullshit. + or – should mean just a little better or worse than canonnical Note.
    Therefore there is this total chaos with VG+ – I’d got everything possible as VG+ and each country means theirs owns.
    The GM grading must be changed on stable one without signes. Singes can be used by users like written higher.
    Like this:

    My vision: M(-) NM(-) EX(+/-) VG(+/-) G (already the bad note, +/- don’t help) F/P
    Goldmine now: M M-/NM VG+ VG G
    School note: 1 2 3 4 5 6

    for Example NM- – shiny glossy but with a little more light hairlines
    EX+ – realy very good but not glossy, etc.
    so, the singes are just personal emotions because we are the humans)
    And the faster the better

    Happy collecting

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