As we are in the midst of a huge vinyl upswing, particularly with used vinyl, it’s a good idea to consider “the grading of the album”. There seems to be a huge proliferation of stores selling used vinyl and some of it, even high priced vinyl ($15 & up) can be in very poor condition. Not long ago, I purchased a disc from a vendor that was fairly rare for over $16.00. Once near a turntable, I attempted to play the disc and it was virtually worn out. Like horrible! Why did I not ask for a playback snippet? I was in a rush and I trusted the selling store. Big Mistake!
Grades of Vinyl; This is actually available on line, check Gold Mine LP. The have broken vinyl grades into 4 simple categories; Good (G), Very Good (VG), Near Mint (NM) and Mint (M). The colour of G-G+ vinyl is often gray and dull indicating lots of play
Good; Record complete with cover. Usually not in the best music condition as it can be heavily scratched (not to the point of skipping) and the cover not in great condition, often albums are badly warped. Good Plus LPs (G+) are usually in better condition – most often musically but can have better covers.
Very Good; VG Albums are in better condition than Good. The vinyl can have some scratches and the cover should be in decent shape. The colour of the vinyl should be quite black and there should be a sheen to the vinyl. VG + LPs Should be in decent shape all round. The cover should be completely intact, with no writing or marks. There should be only light “smears” or surface scatches, very little surface noise. Colour should be glossy black.
Near Mint; The album should look like it just came out of a record store. No Marks, No clicks and pops. The cover should be excellent, no wear around the spindle hole. These albums too should be glossy black. NM+ LPs are simply perfect!
MINT; In most cases this is not possible – even with a sealed album as you may recall many albums from the 70’s and 80’s were simply poor quality when they arrived due to the stamper being used too many times.
What to check for:
- Make sure the LP has been properly cleaned to enable you to check for surface quality. If the albums aren’t cleaned you can miss flaws. A small flash light can be used to truly check the surface.
- Check how the LP was cleaned. (soap and water are a no-no due to soap residue and minerals+floride in the water)
- Look for gray areas on an album. This indicates wear on certain cuts.
- Check the inner sleeve. On a good (read expensive), good quality sleeves (not paper) should be used. Archival sleeves are the best.
- Ask to Play the LP. This is the best way to hear how it sounds.
For a more comprehensive list, check out Gold Mine on Line