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March 1st, 2013 2 Comments

How To Grade Your Vinyl

Whether you’re looking to sell vinyl or become better informed as you add to your LP collection, here is a guide to grading vinyl.  Both the standard UK Record Collectors marks as well as Audiogon’s 1-10 rating system are displayed for clarity.

First, turn on a really bright light, break out a magnifier if your eyes are tired, and look at everything. Yes, everything.  From the playing surface to the spindle hole to the edges, scratch depth, wear patterns, the outside cover, and protective sleeves – all of it comes into play when determining a grade.

  • Mint (M) / Audiogon 10:  Perfect all around.  Has never been played, should still be in original packaging.  This grade is used rarely.
  • Near Mint (NM or M-) / Audiogon 9: Nearly perfect.  Under magnification, you may note the tiniest of cosmetic defects.  Essentially, this record should look brand new minus the shrink-wrap.
  • Very Good Plus (VG+) / Audiogon 8:  May show signs of slight wear by another very careful user.  The cover and sleeve might have a light crease or gently turned up corners; the label may have minor discoloration and/or ring wear; the spindle hole remains intact without any signs of use.  Records tend to warp, but if the warp is unnoticeable when played, that’s fine.  Only extreme collectors would turn their noses up at this.  Generally worth about 50% of its total value.
  • Very Good (VG) / Audiogon 7:  Damage or wear will be slightly more pronounced that an Audiogon 8.  Surface defects will be barely noticeable on playing.  Scratches will catch your fingernail, and there may be leftover sale sticker residue on the cover.  Worth approximately 25% of its total value.
  • Good Plus (G+) /Audiogon 6:  Average wear and tear by a previous user.  No major defects, visually or structurally, but the surface noise will be more apparent.  If you’ve been looking for this item for a long time, it’s likely worth getting with the option to upgrade in the future.  Worth 15% of the total price.
  • Good (G) / Audiogon 5:  Visually, the cover and sleeve may have more damage, like a splitting seam, and the cardboard may start to feel slightly tacky with age.  The spindle hole may show signs of wear, like curling label edges.  Worth 10% of the total price.
  • Fair (F) / Audiogon 3-4:  Noticeably diminished sound quality, but a good cleaning system might help.  Warped, obvious damage to the cover or sleeve, may not even have a sleeve.
  • Poor (P) /Audiogon 1-2:  The worst shape.  Avoid these items unless you’re looking at something so rare that just having it is a coup.  Worth a few pennies.

Hopefully, this grading guide will help you determine how valuable your collection is.  Please remember, when choosing between two ratings, it’s generally best to pick the lower grade and surprise your buyer!  Thanks to the Record Collectors Guild for providing more information.

Do you have any tips for determining your LPs grade?  Let us know in the comments!

  • tootyfull

    This is great information.I am in the process of selling some of my beloved LP’s from the 60s thru 90s collection and I needed some info on pricing and cleaning them for sale.If you can provide additional info on cleaning and conditioning them it would be much appreciated. Also,I am interested in transfering my vinyl to Mp3 and CDs. Could you recommend any digital turntables with the capability of also connecting to standard audio with RCA plug ins with the option of playing 33.45 and optional 78 rpm vinyl recordings that is reasonably priced? Thank you so much and its good to be back with the audiogon community.

  • xlh1

    The above grading system only addresses the physical condition of the vinyl which, in many cases, has very little correlation to the actual playing condition of the record. You can have a record which visually looks NM or better but when played is noisy or has distorted sound. This can be caused by poor cleaning before playing (which then grinds in the dirt and makes it part of the ‘information’ in the groove), being played with too light a tracking force on the stylus ( which causes inner groove distortion) or poor storage conditions ( which can cause ‘mold’ to form within the grooves and totally destroy the information). I have been collecting/buying/selling vinyl for over 30 years and have personally experienced all of the above problems many times. The only meaningful way to rate a records condition is with 2 gradings: one for the physical condition and one for ‘play graded’. Granted, a record which is heavily scratched and generally filthy most likely will not play quietly and is a definite indication of poor care, but just because a record looks pristine is no assurance that it is even playable.