How to grade 78rpm records for sale on ebay

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A short guide to grading those old 78rpm records which you want to dispose of on ebay, so that bidders will know what they are going to get!

In the UK the most widely accepted grading system is found in the Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide and magazine.   This is designed for all types of records i.e. vinyl LPs and singles as well as shellac 78rpm records, so I have added some comments to help you adapt the record collector grading system for 78s.

One notable point for 78s is that unlike vinyl LPs  the cover/sleeve is not usually expected by buyers, especially for 1940s and earlier ones.  It is an added selling point especially for 1950s 78s or unusual 78s which came with an attractive sleeve. 

MINT:  The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality.  Cover and any extras in perfect condition.   As 78s will usually be at least 50 years old, it is bad form to grade these as Mint!  The very best may be graded as "Near Mint" and if it really is old shop stock i.e. unplayed from some unsold stock after a record shop closed, you can say that. 

EXCELLENT:  "EX"  The record shows some signs of having been played but there is very little lessening in sound quality.  Cover and packaging might have slight wear and creasing.  Note that 78s of the 1920s and 1930s will generally suffer audibly if there are visible signs of wear.  However, by the 1950s, recording techniques were so much better that rock and pop 78s of the 1950s may show visible wear but play superbly.  This makes it a little difficult to grade and you may wish to say "sounds EX" if you have been able to play and check sound quality.  I think you should grade more conservatively for records which are older than 1950.  Use + and - to give more accurate grading.  EX+ would be a really shiny copy with hardly a mark on it.  EX- for a 1950s 78 could look quite scuffed but with no deep scratches and with only minor greying/worn looking patches. 

VERY GOOD:  "VG"  The record has obviously been played many times but displays no major deterioration in sound quality, despite noticeable surface marks and the occasional light scratch.    Many 78s are found in this condition.  Those that sound pleasant enough, albeit with the usual background hiss and a bit of sound deterioration, could be graded VG+.  Those which are still just about listenable but tough on the ears would have to be graded VG-.   As a buyer avoid anything VG- or below unless it is a real rarity which you must have in any condition.  As a seller, if the record is a common one you are probably wasting your time listing anything below VG+.  Take it to a charity shop!

GOOD:  Record has been played so much that the sound quality has noticeably deteriorated, perhaps with some distortion and mild scratches.  Generally these are not fit for sale/purchase frankly.  Unfortunately there can be serious misunderstandings on ebay.  A seller using the record collector grading system can grade a record as "Good" and the buyer, thinking "good means good" will not realise that, technically, good= not good. On the other hand, an inexperienced seller may look at a nice shiny, unmarked 78, think "that looks good" and grade it as "good" when it should be described as EX+.

FAIR: Just playable.  Only great rarities are worth buying or selling in this condition.

POOR: Will not play properly due to scratches, bad surface noise etc.

BAD: The record is unplayable or might even be broken.   Throw it away BUT before you do so give some thought as to whether it might be so mega rare or of such great historical interest that even in this condition it is worth keeping.  Is it by blues singer Robert Johnson?  Was it recorded by a Jewish owned record company in Nazi Berlin in 1936? Is it a recording of a radio broadcast which might be unique?  Does it have a very beautiful or unusual label?  There are some very rare things that a specialist collector, discographer or museum might want even if it comes in two pieces!

If  this guide has been helpful please use the tickbox to say so!  See my other guides, if you sell some 78s you may want to check my guide to safe packing- to avoid your record leaving you in "EX" condition but arriving with your buyer in "BAD" shape! 


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