How to Determine the Condition of a Vinyl Record

Condition is one of the primary factors in the value of the record. This can be challenging, as determining the condition is undeniably the most subjective part of the vinyl value equation. You could just eye it out and give it a grade, but you’re not doing yourself — or potential buyers — any favors.

Since our user-built Database includes every release variant of a record, Discogs makes it a breeze to find vinyl values using sales history, so there’s little guesswork needed. However, the condition is unique to each and every record.  Whether you are looking to accurately grade your collection or list an item for sale in the Marketplace, we’ll explain how to determine the condition of a vinyl record.

Discogs uses the Goldmine Standard, a universally-accepted guideline for representing the condition of physical music. According to the Goldmine Standard, each record and sleeve should be given a grade that ranges from the pristine Mint down to the badly-damaged Poor/Fair. You must give it a visual inspection and, in most cases, play the record to grade how it sounds. Below is a breakdown of the different conditions within the Goldmine Standard and what to look out for when you’re grading a record.

For guides to other formats, check out our comprehensive support document for grading all items, including CDs and cassettes.

How Does the Record Look?

Inspect the sleeve and any inserts (lyric sheets, posters, etc.) for ring wear, discoloration, sticker residue, and seam-splits. Next, look at the vinyl surface for scratches and other imperfections. Visually inspecting a record is best done under a bright light positioned close to the vinyl surface.

How Does the Record Sound?

Put the needle down and give it a spin. Do you hear clicks, pops, or skipping? Make note of the different sounds and what side they correspond to. Read ahead to see what that means for the condition of the vinyl record.

Vinyl Record Conditions

When you are inspecting the vinyl and sleeve, compare your findings to the notes for each condition under the Goldmine Standard.

Mint (M)

The sleeve and cover are absolutely perfect in every way. To qualify as Mint, the record must never have been played and is possibly still sealed. Mint should be used sparingly as a grade, if at all. Note that a record can be sealed and not Mint. There could be sleeve discoloration, ring wear, or vinyl warp if guidelines on how to store vinyl were not followed. If you suspect your record is in Mint condition, do not play it.

Near Mint (NM or M-)

A nearly perfect record. A Near Mint (NM) record has more than likely never been played. The vinyl will play perfectly, with no imperfections during playback. The record should show no obvious signs of wear. The sleeve of a 45 of EP should have no more than the most minor defects, such as any sign of slight handling. The LP cover should have no creases, folds, seam-splits, cut-out holes, or other noticeable similar defects. The same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, etc. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than NM, implying (perhaps correctly) that no record is ever truly perfect.

Very Good Plus (VG+)

A Very Good Plus (VG+) record will show some signs that it was played and handled by a previous owner who took good care of it. Any defects are of a cosmetic nature and do not affect the actual playback. In theory, a VG+ record should sound the same as a Near Mint (NM) one. Vinyl surfaces may show some signs of wear, such as slight scuffs or very light scratches. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are okay. The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable. Spindle marks may be present. Picture sleeves and inner sleeves will have some wear, slightly turned-up corners, or a small seam-split. An LP cover may have sparse signs of wear and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation, or cut corner. In general, it plays perfectly, and if not for some minor aesthetic wear, it would be Near Mint.

Very Good (VG)

The defects found in a Very Good Plus (VG+) record will be more pronounced in a Very Good (VG) item. Surface noise will be evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and fade, but will not overpower the music otherwise. Groove wear will start to be noticeable, such as with light scratches (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound. Labels may be marred by writing, or have tape or stickers (or their residue) attached. The same will be true of picture sleeves or LP covers. However, a VG item will not have all of these problems at the same time.

Good, Good Plus (G, G+)

A record in Good (G) or Good Plus (G+) condition can be played through without skipping, but it will have significant surface noise, scratches, and visible groove wear. A cover or sleeve will have seam-splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, ring wear, or other defects will be present. While the record will be playable without skipping, noticeable surface noise and “ticks” will almost certainly accompany the playback.

Poor, Fair (P, F)

The record is cracked, badly warped, and won’t play through without skipping or repeating. The picture sleeve could be water damaged, split on more than one seam, and heavily marred by wear or writing. The LP cover barely keeps the LP inside it. Inner sleeves are fully split, crinkled, and written upon. Poor (P) or Fair (F) records are generally worth very little, at most 5% of the Near Mint (NM) price.