Mega Record & CD Fair

3 Record Grading Tips All Collectors Should Know

Record grading can be a rather subjective practice that has very objective expectations. Many people have different opinions about how to interpret record grading standards.

There are also different standards, such as the Goldmine Standard or the VJM record grading system. Anyone who’s bought or sold records at some point has likely had a difference of opinion in grading.

One can strive towards consistent grading. Even seasoned professionals are not immune to distractions, fatigue, or other causes of inaccuracy.

Vinyl record grading: Poor

I’m not going into an overview of grading systems and getting myself found out for being a lousy grader. Instead, I am taking a different approach. I am going to focus on what you need to look out for when grading records. These are tips that I’ve learned over the years that should help you grade with accuracy.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when record grading:

1. Lighting is integral

You need a bright non-diffused light so that you can see damage, wear and grime. Most visual grading mistakes happen because of insufficient light. Light reflects off scratches at different angles. This will help highlight damage or dirt which add unnecessary surface noise. This brings me to my next tip.

2. Clean the record

If cleaned well enough, your record may jump a whole grade letter. Cleaning won’t remove scratches or other groove wear, but it should help. There are many decent DIY methods of cleaning records that provide decent results. These are nice if you’re starting out, need to clean a very large batch of cheap records or are otherwise on a budget. At the higher end of the price spectrum are record cleaning machines. I purchased a record cleaning machine and haven’t been more satisfied with the results.

3. Play the record

You don’t only look at records; playing the record is a crucial but often overlooked step in the grading process. Invisible defects can include pressing defects from low quality types of vinyls or other plastics used in the manufacturing process. These will not usually be evident on visual grading alone. Poor recording quality of the master material itself will ruin the complete package.

A freshly cleaned, graded record will help you avoid returns and negative feedback when selling your records on. It will also get you the best possible price for your items. As a record collector, you’ll avoid lost opportunities to upgrade when cataloging. With a little bit of effort and the right tools, you too can save money and get more enjoyment out of your records.

What are your best record grading tips?

This post originally appeared on Classic Album Sundays. Get along to one of their events in a city near you.

Discogs included affiliate links to earn fees from the products recommended in this article.

Return to Discogs Blog
msuci appreciator
  • Oct 30,2019 at 09:08

    In my experience, at least 90% of British record sellers are deliberately mis grading their records just to make a sale in the hope the buyer doesn’t complain. I have lost count of the number of discs have bought from this website that were listed as near mint but arrived with dirty sleeves that could barely hold together, WOL, and a visible ribbon of needle wear around the lead in of the record Under halogen lighting caused by heavy past auto changer use and the needle has landed in the same spot dozens of times. Generally this is more evident on singles than LPS. I’ve even had dealers pretend they have never noticed this and they dare to think of themselves professionals. I have even received records previously used in a night club where the remains of beer in the grooves and sleeves wouldn’t need the smell test at all. I applause the honest 10% who do follow the Discogs grading system but sadly they are in the minority now.

  • Feb 12,2018 at 14:38

    I agree with sevensandtwelves. I don’t think these grades have anything to do with the making of the music or the album (mastering, mixing etc.) If you buy something new it is in mint condition until you open it. Then it is immediately near mint. It has nothing to do with how the record sounds. That’s a different issue. I believe we are grading the actual vinyl and cover, not the making of the disc or the music that is on it. If that were true there would be no Bon Jovi albums rated above POOR (j/k of course, I like to tease Bon Jovi fans). But, am I wrong here?

  • Feb 9,2018 at 22:04

    I like the article and the others you write and this is only my opinion. I will never agree that poor recording quality has anything to do with grading. I am not reviewiing the records, i am grading their physical condition. cheers

  • Jan 16,2018 at 14:40

    I always err on the side of caution! I probably don’t do myself any favours, to be honest. What annoys me most, though, is a rash of brand new vinyl that came out a couple of years ago that looks great but plays like it has been kept in a damp garage for ten years. Because I rarely buy something new and play it immediately, by the time I get around to listening it is too late to complain about it. I have set about resolving this more recently but have definitely noticed an overall improvement in new vinyl of late.

Leave A Reply