When shopping for used records, understanding the way vinyl is graded is important. In fact, it’s essential to your collection piece’s quality. Vinyl grading isn’t an exact science, but it’s certainly a useful metric. Vinyl grades are rather universal, and they’re established upon commonly held guidelines.
If you want to determine the value of your records, you’ll need to determine their relative rarity, demand and other qualities. Below, we’re covering the way vinyl is graded, helping you determine a possible gold mine while understanding the general quality of each disc.
The Vinyl Grading System
Each vinyl carries an acronym. This acronym displays the vinyl’s overall quality with relevance to industry standards. Additionally, each acronym yips listeners off to relative sound quality aspects. When searching for used vinyl, pay attention to the following grades.
Poor (P) or Fair (F)
A P or F rating reflects a vinyl of poor condition. Discs with these ratings often have major noise issues. They skip, repeat and reveal scratching noises often. If you purchase vinyl with a P or F rating, expect badly warped material. Frequently, these records are cracked or have deep scratches. Their covers are either badly damaged or destroyed completely.
While the term “good” might seem positive, a record carrying a G grade may still be of poor quality. Record enthusiasts often sell records of top quality. If they’ve rated a record as Good, they may be picking up on undesirable condition traits. Frequently, a G-rated record is sold at a bargain price. It’s useable, but it may have several scratches. Its music has light distortions.
Very Good (VG)
A VG-rated vinyl has experienced a lot of use. It’s still useable, but it’ll carry a few distortions. Ranked above a G-rated record, a VG-rated record often carries light pops and clicks. It might have light visible scratches, and it may have split edges. You can enjoy listening to a VG-rated record, and you can use it as an artistic display, too. For the most part, a VG-rated record is undamaged. Upon closer inspection, however, its use will be apparent—both visually and audibly.
Very Good Plus (VG+)
The next step up, a VG+ record has little faults. It doesn’t, however, have compromised audio or visuals. A VG+ record may have several inaudible marks and a little rub. Its audio may have slight background crackle. If you’ve come across a VG+ record, you’ve found a solid investment. As with a VG record, however, close inspection may reveal its age.
An Excellent record is similar to a VG+ record. Its light marks will be difficult to spot, however, as will be its audio distortions. A lot of E-rated records have been in and out of their sleeve only a few times. Their minute signs of use, generally, reflect high-quality care.
Near Mint (NM)
A Near Mint record is a fantastic investment. It looks glossy, and it’s clearly only been played several times. NM vinyl has little to no markings, and its package is either untouched or nearly untouched. Don’t expect to find any distortions on a NM record. In essence: A NM record is imperfect only in its one-or-two-time use.
A Mint record is perfect. It’s never been played, and it might’ve never been removed from its package. It’s fully sealed, and it has no blemishes or audio distortions. Mint vinyl is rare, and it’s incredibly valuable.
When purchasing vinyl, look at the record’s sleeve from several angles. Sometimes, you can determine the quality of grade by the sleeve’s condition. Because record stores grade vinyl, the grade itself may be slightly inaccurate. Examine the record’s scratches and other blemishes, and consider your investment wisely before making a choice.
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