This blog is likely to be controversial with some people. It’s not my intention to do so. Grading vinyl records is a very difficult subject to master with guidelines that are open to interpretation. When I was selling, I toted that it was a subjective practice with objective expectations.
Play grading is an essential tool in ensuring that your buyers will receive their record in the most accurate grade possible. Not only will it reduce costly complaints, returns & refunds, it will also help allow you to guarantee a higher price in cases where one may have visually under graded.
Certain types of damage like needle wear, heat and pressing defects can go undetected through visual grading. This can extend as far as even making a note of the overall recording quality, which has been brought up by many buyers as something they are often concerned with when purchasing records. Cleaning your record may actually improve the grade here as well.
Below are some samples I have recorded and graded. I used government issue public service announcement records to avoid any copyright issue that may stem. Unfortunately, spoken word records destined for radio use aren’t exactly the best pressings, so finding a really super clean record to use was quite a challenge. Here goes!
MINT: In order for a mint record to be considered mint by Goldmine standards, it can not ever be played, therefore, a mint record cannot be play graded.
NEAR MINT and VG+: A VG+ record should sound the same as a near mint record. There should be no surface noise whatsoever in either grade. The difference between Near Mint and VG+ is extremely minor cosmetic defects that do not affect play. A Near Mint or VG+ record should sound like this:
VG: A VG record should have minor surface noise that does not overpower the music and will mostly be noticable in soft passages or in the intro and outro of a disc. A VG record should sound like this:
GOOD: This is a record that will at best play through without skipping. It will be in rough condition and very noisy. A Good record should sound like this:
FAIR / POOR: Cracked, Warped or skips. If it skips, it’s this. Even if the rest of the record looks okay. This is the sound of my needle crying in pain:
Combined with keen visual grading, play-grading will help you excel and make a higher return on investment for your work. As grading is subject to interpretation, please feel free to share any opinions down below!