Let’s be honest: most records, especially from before the 1970s, are not in anything close to Mint or Near Mint condition. So, we grade our records by listening to them. Each and every one. Sometimes, even after being viewed under a strong light, the intensity of surface noise can only be graded once heard.
That said, from best to worst, here are the grades we use for our records:
Near Mint (NM)
Basically, it’s nearly perfect.
NM records are shiny, with no visible defects. Writing, stickers or other markings cannot appear on the label, nor can any “spindle marks” from someone trying to blindly put the record on the turntable. Major factory defects also must be absent; a record and label obviously pressed off center is not Near Mint. If played, it will do so with no surface noise. NM records don’t have to be never played (a record used on an excellent turntable can remain NM after many plays, it just cannot be mishandled.) These are hard to find in the wild.
Very Good Plus (VG)
Except for a couple minor things, these would be Near Mint. Most collectors, especially those who want to play their records, will be happy with a VG record.
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.
When played, a VG record has some slight 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.
Good does not mean bad.
The record still plays through without skipping, but it has significant surface noise and groove wear, and the label might be worn, with significant ring wear, heavy writing, or fading.
Questions? This can get confusing. Feel free to contact us with the chat button. We'd love to help!