The condition of a record is of paramount importance. An apparently new, (who ca be certain?), unplayed copy might be worth many times the price of a worn junkshop copy. Indeed, a very worn copy may not be saleable at all. The prices quoted in this guide are for records in excellent condition. “Excellent” is part of the standard grading code that has been in use for many years. Other standard grading terms follow.

The conditions

Apparently unplayed and showing no signs of wear.

Showing only slight wear. Playing surfaces still retain much of their original shine. Surface noise is minimal.

Somewhat more worn than an excellent record, slight grayness appearing iii the grooves, especially in louder passages. Still a fairly clean and acceptable copy. Surface and extraneous noise is noticeable, but does not overwhelm the music.

A misnomer. A “good” record is really not so good. It shows considerable wear and usage, grayness in the grooves, random mars and light abrasions from a sleeveless existence. Surface noise is prominent enough to impair enjoyment of music.

indicate the lowest grades of the condition code. Since only the rarest records would be saleable in these grades, they appear infrequently.

Plus and minus sign are often suffixed to above grades to indicate a somewhat better or worse grade, when appropriate. Another grading code is often employed by persons and publications concerned with the music of the 1950s and later (primarily 45s, EPs and LPs):

Mint (M) is used in place of New (N); Very Good (VG) corresponds more closely to Excellent (E) than to the older system’s Very Good (V); and Good (G) is roughly equivalent to the older system’s Very Good (V). In addition to the wear factor, defects and impairments can drastically affect the value and saleability of a record. Those typically affecting the playing surface are cracks, digs and warps.

A crack usually renders a record practically worthless; even the value of a rarity is generally reduced to a nominal sum by the presence of a crack. This is true even if the crack is “tight” and negotiable by a needle. There are exceptions, such as “laminatior1 cracks”, which affect only one side of a laminated record (having a cardboard core between the playing s1u‘faces) such as Columbia or Okeh: these cracks severely affect, but do not necessarily destroy, the record’s value. With most defects, the reduction of the record’s value is a matter of degree. Is that scratch inaudible, or does it make the tone-arm jump half an inch?

Does that dig allow the needle to negotiate the groove, or does the affected passage repeat?

Other defects, such as the label or stickers on the label, affect only appearance and not play, but this can be very important. In short, the acknowledgment of defects is an essential part of the grading process.Most auction lists and price lists will contain an explanation of the grading system and symbols used. It is also important that the system be applied fairly and objectively. Often it is not: overgrading has become commonplace in the collectors’ record market. A reputable dealer will make adjustments or refunds if a record proves to be erroneously graded.

(Sources: Les Docks)