Here I give you an overview of what to look for when buying vinyl records. I will give clear meanings to the jargon used by record collectors and tell you how to find a bargain.
Firstly, when searching for vinyl records always consider which keywords sellers will have used to list their items, i.e. if you are looking for The Beatles 'Love Me Do' 7" Single do not just search for 'beatles' as it will return thousands of results, but do not be too specific either because if you include words in your search that are not in the listing title then they will not appear in your search results. Try searching for the artist and song title only.
Once you have found the vinyl you are interested in, read the item description carefully - check the condition of the vinyl and sleeve. Vinyls are often many years old and will almost always have some wear but it is important to check for damage, such as writing on the vinyl labels or on the sleeve. The listing should use the Record Collectors Guide Condition Guidelines from BAD to GOOD to MINT - a GOOD record is worth roughly 33% of a MINT record and a BAD record is worth roughly 2.5%.
You should also check the edition (first presses are far more valuable than re-issues) - telling a first edition from a re-issue can be difficult but the easiest way to tell them apart is to check the vinyl matrix numbers (see below).
Finally, use the 'Ask a question' feature on the top right hand side of each ebay listing to ask the seller questions about the item or request extra pictures. As the buyer you are in control and should exploit the features on offer from ebay.
Record Collectors Dictionary
ACETATE: An acetate disc is basically a demo recording taken directly from the master recording tape. A typical acetate disc is aluminium with a thin layer of lacquer over the top, which wears out quickly.
EP: An extended playing disc, usually with four-five tracks.
FIRST (1ST) PRESS: These LPs are the very first to come off the production line and are made directly from the mother discs, the matrix numbers usually end in -1.
GATEFOLD SLEEVE: Double-sized sleeve that opens up like a book.
LP: A long playing vinyl record, the standard album format.
MATRIX NUMBER: These are numbers found etched into the vinyl between the final track and label. Each side should have a different number. They tell you when are where the LP was made, if the matrix numbers end in -1 it usually means they are 1st pressings.
RE-ISSUE: A re-release, typical worth alot less than the original.
TEST PRESSING: Manufacturer's sample copy of the record.
WARP: Buckle in the vinyl caused by heat, which if severe enough can cause problems with playback.
Record Collectors Grading System
MINT: The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality. The cover and any extra items such as the lyric sheet, booklet or poster are in perfect condition. Records advertised as Sealed or Unplayed should be Mint.
EXCELLENT: The record shows some signs of having been played, but there is very little lessening in sound quality. The cover and packaging might have slight wear and / or creasing.
VERY GOOD: 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. Normal wear and tear on the cover or extra items, without any major defects, is acceptable.
GOOD: The record has been played so much that the sound quality has noticeably deteriorated, perhaps with some distortion and mild scratches. The cover and contents suffer from folding, scuffing of edges, spine splits, discolouration, etc.
FAIR: The record is still just playable but has not been cared for properly and displays considerable surface noise; it may even jump. The cover and contents will be torn, stained and / or defaced.
POOR: The record will not play properly due to scratches, bad surface noise, etc. The cover and contents will be badly damaged or partly missing.
BAD: The record is unplayable or might even be broken, and is only of use as a collection filler.