I don’t assign grades to album covers because as long as my fingers don’t cringe to touch it, I don’t really care what condition it’s in. And everyone has their own idea of what makes an album cover cringe-worthy.
For me, it’s mold, or an offensive odor, or hole punches.
For others, it may be writing on the cover. I have my fair share of records where someone wrote a note on the album cover. It could be a love letter, an inscription, or even a grocery list. I usually don’t mind the writing. I’m frequently writing about the experience of listening to music, specifically records. When there’s a personalized note on the cover, you are sharing the experience with a previous owner. It’s kind of cool knowing that back in 1982 Cheryl gave Richard the Bob Seger record I’m now listening to. And I can’t help but feel nostalgic when I read, “Vicki call Jack. He called 2x” on the back of Rumors. Yes. There was a time when entire families shared a single phone that was tethered to the wall, and taking messages for your social siblings was a part-time job.
So long as the writing doesn’t cover up any of the main imagery, it doesn’t bother me.
Of course I appreciate a minty cover. I would always choose the record with the cover in better shape… if all other things were equal. But if one record sounded noticeably better than the other , I would pay more for the better sounding record… even if the cover wasn’t as good. (Moldy, smelly, covers being the exception. But chances are if the cover is too nasty to touch, then it’s better off being thrown away, vinyl included).
Unlike the record itself, where the primary purpose is listening, the album cover serves different purposes. To some it’s completely utilitarian. To some like me, it’s nice to have the original cover in a not too fucked up condition. And to others, it’s actually part of the vinyl itself…
I respect that some collectors want everything in as fine a condition as possible. I’m that way with other things I collect.
All listings in my store have high resolution pictures of, at least, the front and back covers. I do try to mention any writings, seam splits, or any other damage. But I don’t always catch them. If you want details on a specific album you’re interested in, just drop me an email.