Valuing a Vinyl Record: Record Grading

Maybe you are a keen collector and suddenly you find your long time sought after record. Maybe you got tired of a record or you find yourself with an spare.

Either if you want to buy a record and would like to know how much you can expect to pay for it, or you are selling an spare copy you do not need anymore, you will need to assign a value estimate to it.

The value of a vinyl record depends on many factors:

  • collectability of the artist or record label
  • demand for the item
  • condition of the record and its packaging: vinyl record grading

Collectability of the Artist / Record Label

Collectability of an artist or record label can vary a lot and can be influenced by factors such as:
  • The comeback of a popular artist after a long silence
  • The death of an artist
  • The cult status of an artist or label
All these factors can awaken a dormant desire for a rare record in collectors.

Demand for a Vinyl Record

The demand for a particular vinyl record depends on several factors:
  • First pressings vs re-pressings vs re-issues
  • Unique artwork
  • Variations in artwork
  • Differences in musical contents: some pressings might have different mixes or edits of some songs, different running order, songs sung in a different language, etc.
  • Special pressings: promo pressings, test pressings, acetates
  • Scarcity

Vinyl Record Grading

The value of a vinyl record will heavily depend on the condition of the actual vinyl and its packaging and any extra items it originally contained.

There are two widely accepted systems for record grading:
  • Record Collector
  • Goldmine

Goldmine Vinyl Grading System

Absolutely perfect in every way. A rarely seen condition. Collectors will usually pay a premium for this condition.

A nearly perfect record. Many dealers won’t use a grade higher than this, implying (perhaps correctly) that no record or sleeve is ever truly perfect.

NM records are shiny, with no visible defects. Labels should be free of any writing, stickers or other markings and should not have any “spindle marks” (marks from a turntable spindle caused by carelessly putting the record on the turntable).
No major factory defects should be present, such as off center label, or a heavily warped record.

It should play with no surface noise.

NM covers are free of creases, ring wear, seam splits and writing or pen marks.

NOTE: These standards should be applied to any record no matter how old is it. A record or sleeve from the 1950s must meet the same standards as one from the 1990s or 2000s to be Near Mint! Apparently, no more than 4 percent of all records remaining from the 1950s and 1960s are truly Near Mint. This is why they fetch such high prices, even for more common items.

Don't wrongly overgrade your records as Near Mint. They should meet these standards.


A VG+ record will show some slight signs of wear: light scuffs or very light scratches that do not affect the listening experience. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are OK. The record label may have some very light ring wear or discoloration, or some spindle marks from handling but it should be barely noticeable.
Record covers will have some slight wear. They can have some very minor seam wear or a small split, or some defacing, such as a cut-out marking.
In general, if not for a couple things wrong with it, this would be Near Mint.

Generally worth 50% of the Near Mint value.
Sample of a VG+ sleeve. Some creasing is visible specially at top edge. Would be NM if id DID NOT HAVE such creasing.

Very Good (VG)

Many of the defects found on a VG+ record will be more obvious on a VG record. 

They lack most of the original gloss found on new records. Groove wear will be noticeable at sight, as will be light scratches deep enough to feel with a fingernail. When played, surface noise will be present and some scratches may be audible, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and ending. But the noise will not overpower the music otherwise.
The label can have minor writing, tape or a sticker.

Covers can show ring wear in the middle or along the edges of the cover. Some more creases might be visible. Seam splitting can be present on all three sides. It my have some writing, price tag or similar stickers.

Generally worth 25% of Near Mint value.

Good (G)

The record still plays through without skipping but it has significant surface noise and groove wear.
Label is worn, with significant ring wear, heavy writing, or other obvious damage.
Cover has heavy ring wear, obvious seam splits and/or heavy writing.

Only worth buying if you’ve been after it for a long time. In that case you will want to look for an upgrade.

These records go for up to 10 to 15 percent of the Near Mint value.
Sample of a G condition sleeve: notice the ring wear, heavy creasing, edge wear, seam split at bottom, tear at top left corner!

POOR (P) and Fair (F)

Records are cracked, impossibly warped, or skip and/or repeat when an attempt is made to play them. Covers and labels are heavily damaged and might have missing parts.

These records go for 0 to 5 percent of the Near Mint value.
Sample of a F condition sleeve: heavy ring wear, creasing and writing. Nice carpet though!

 Record Collector Vinyl Grading System

This is basically the same as the Goldmine Grading System with the following equivalences:
  • NM → M
  • VG+ → EX
  • VG → VG
  • G → G
  • P → P
  • F → F

Overpriced items in not so nice condition

Ok. You found that elusive record you were after for so many years. Maybe the seller is asking a high price. But wait a minute: how about its condition? Is it really worth the price? It's not unusual to find hardly playable records in G, F and P condition, or with torn, hand-written  sleeves, where the seller asks an arm and a leg for it! You should avoid these, unless you found one of a handful copies in the world!

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