Now that you know how to not grade records, let’s take a look at the right way to grade records. I say right way tongue in cheek, because it’s just my way. And although I do think it is the right way, I’m not foolish or self-absorbed to feel it’s the only way.
Here’s how I grade records. All used records in the store have been assigned a grade according to these guidelines. I am confident you will agree with hundreds of customers that my grading system is accurate and fair.
- If it’s a sealed record, the condition is Sealed (S). It’s not mint. I’ve purchased too many sealed records that ended up being warped, noisy, or just plain skip…
In fact, many new releases suffer from substandard quality. So a sealed record is Sealed.
To grade a used record, it’s simple. Listen to the record. Everything else is just guessing. A record may look mint, but some problems will only be exposed when you put a needle to the vinyl.
- A record that skips at any point receives a failing grade. That is, it’s not really playable. The record must either be thrown out and put out of circulation (PLEASE), or it enters a purely collector’s market where the goal is ownership for the sake of ownership and not for the sound quality of the record.
- If a record plays all the way through the primary factor in assigning a grade is the amount of surface noise. If the surface noise continuously overwhelms the music, then throw it out. Again, it’s unlistenable.
- If there’s surface noise throughout the album, but the noise never distracts or overwhelms the music except maybe during quiet passages, then it’s Very Good (VG). The record may also contain moments of pops and clicks.
- If surface noise is mostly audible only during quiet passages, then it’s Very Good Plus (VG+). The record may also contain an occasional pop or click.
- If you hear minimal or no surface noise – even between tracks – then it’s Near Mint (NM).
- There is no such thing as a Mint record.
- On multi-record albums/sets, listen to all records and either grade them individually, or take the worst grade and use that as a collective grade for the entire set.
- Age doesn’t make a difference. There is no such thing as “VG+ for it’s age.”
- But there is a sliding scale based off the type of music. If a James Taylor record contains the same amount and level of surface noise as a Megadeth record, then the records would probably have different grades. Because James Taylor – as a general rule – is significantly quieter music, it may be a VG record. But the surface noise may be hardly audible during a Megadeth record, so it could be VG+.
- S is a record that is still sealed.
- NM is a record that sounds pristine. It basically means there’s no surface noise during quiet passages of music and only very little surface noise in between tracks. It’s a record basically free of “vinyl artifacts” such as noise, static, pops, clicks, etc…
- VG+ is a record that may have surface noise that is generally only audible during quiet passages of music, but is otherwise unnoticeable. The record may contain an occasional pop or tick.
- VG is a record that may have surface noise throughout the album, but never overwhelms the music. The record may also contain longer moments of loud surface noise or popping. Regardless, records with this grade are still extremely listenable.
If everyone used the my system of record grading, the world would be a better place. At least buying used records would be less stressful… which, really, would make the world a better place…
A summary of this post, along with a buyer’s guide, is here.