A Realistic Guide to Vinyl Record Grading Guide

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A Realistic guide to Record Grading 
Having been an avid buyer and seller of vinyl for 30 years I've seen people on both sides of the fence who appear to be completely confused by the customarily used Record Collector Guide, which lets face it isn't very comprehensive and can be open to interpretation in a lot of cases.
Mint/New.
Overly used and unrealistic grade on almost all second hand records due to even new items almost certainly having imperfections from sitting in racks and shipping damage. There’s always someone out there who will find a microscopic mark or crease somewhere. 
Excellent/Near mint
This is another difficult one because unless you listen to the whole record from start to finish on a reference grade system it’s almost impossible to say if there’s any significant surface noise or not. It’s open to interpretation in a lot of cases and what I hear as imperfections someone else will say is normal vinyl surface noise. This grade could theoretically be achieved by a good clean and ruined by a bad turntable/stylus. It should however have no damage on the sleeve or vinyl although it will have been opened and played. 
Excellent
This is a much more realistic top grading for almost any used record to achieve. It should have little or no wear or damage but very slight creasing or scuffing on the sleeve is acceptable. The vinyl will have been played but should not have any noticeable deterioration in sound quality apart from normal vinyl surface noise. There should be no heavy marks on the vinyl surface but a few light surface marks are acceptable. 
Very Good
Again this is a more realistic grading for used vinyl. Similar to “Excellent” above but may show signs of slight wear on corners and spine of the sleeve. The corners might have a bit of slight denting and a little wear. There should be no holes, splits or tears and all inserts and inners should be complete. A small amount of cracking (Less than 10mm) of the sleeve laminate on the spine is acceptable as long as it hasn’t gone right through. The vinyl may have been well played but should still sound good. There may be extensive surface marking but not serious enough to affect the quality of the sound. 
Good
The sleeve will show signs of wear, scuffing, denting, creasing and even very small nicks and tears. The spine may have a small split from the vinyl coming through but everything will be complete and in relatively good shape. There should be little or no discolouration or fading. The vinyl will still be playable buy may show signs of wear and surface noise. There should be no serious scratches or flaws that would cause the needle to jump or pop loudly. 
Fair
There may be extensive wear and scuffing on the edges of the sleeve. It may also have small tears and splits even large creases. It may also have extensive discolouration, staining or fading. There may be sticker damage and biro marks inside the sleeve. There should be no writing on the outside of the sleeve and it should be complete. The vinyl will have been played many times and may have extensive surface noise and marks. There may be scratches that may cause pops but shouldn’t cause the needle to jump out of the groove.  
Poor
It speaks for itself really. Could have major damage to sleeve, inserts missing, tears, splits, and biro or marker pen marks. The vinyl will have wear and major scratches that could prevent proper playing and the sound will obviously suffer as a result. 
Bad
Don’t bother unless you’re looking for one of the components of it that might be complete. The vinyl could be broken, badly scratched or cracked, the sleeve may be missing or badly damaged, inserts might be missing, badly damaged, discoloured and/or written on.

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