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Image features a black and white graphic of an old-fashioned gramophone. A group of children in silhouette appears to be holding hands and dancing around the gramophone. Below the image is the text "#beatniks," and underneath that, "RECORDS | TURNTABLES | REVOLUTION." Your one-stop shop for rare and collectable vinyl records.

Those with a passion for collecting pre-owned records will know that condition (both the vinyl itself and the cover) play an important role when it comes to your purchase decision. It’s all well and good to finally get your hands on that bucket list gem you’ve been chasing forever, but if it looks like someone has used it to sand their bench tops then your search is likely to continue.

Grading records according to their condition is far from an exact science, but if you’re aware of how records are graded you’ll be able to make an informed decision when it comes to whether to buy it or not. This is particularly relevant when purchasing records online, as you are unable to inspect the condition of the record with your own eyes or get the store to play it for you, to determine how it sounds.

The Goldmine Grading Guide is one of the most reputable and respected systems for establishing the condition of a record and valuing it accordingly, with many auction sites and record stores and record collectors using it as their grading bible. Records are generally listed with two gradings, one for the record and one for the cover. Gradings are as follows:

Mint (M)

As close to perfect as possible, the record and cover should play and look like a new and sealed copy. This grading is rarely used.

Near Mint (NM or M-)

Although unsealed, a record that is listed as NM should look and play like it has barely ever been used, with no visible defects such as scratches or spindle marks. The cover should also be pristine, with no creases, seam splits, pen marks or ring wear.

Very Good Plus (VG+) or Excellent (E)

VG+ or E records should only display light signs of wear, such as minor scuffs or very light and infrequent scratches which do not impact the listening experience. The cover should also only display very minor wear, or maybe a cut out marking.

Very Good (VG)

Many of the minor imperfections of a VG+ record will be more pronounced on a VG graded record. It may have groove wear and any scratches may result in slight surface noise between tracks or in quiet passages  – but not enough to impact the listening experience or overpower the music. There may be a slight warp present, but it shouldn’t cause the record to skip. The cover may have minor marks, tears or rips (eg. from previous price stickers) or may have pen marks or writing from the previous owner.

Good (G), Good Plus (G+) or Very Good Minus (VG-)

Good does not necessarily mean bad! This record will contain a greater degree of the type of blemishes previously mentioned, but it should still play through without skipping or encountering a locked groove (when the needle gets stuck and you have to lift it and drop it forward to continue playing the record). It may however have more significant surface noise, such as pops, crackles and hissing.The cover may have noticeable blemishes, such as large writing, heavy ring wear, seam splits and rips, or instances where the cover has become unglued.

Fair (F) or Poor (P)

This will be one rough listening experience – heavy, overpowering crackle, skipping or warps that bounce your tone arm up off the record are all giveaway symptoms that the record is in poor shape. The cover may be trashed, ripped or defaced. Best to stay away from these records if you want to preserve your stylus and record collecting reputation!

Vinyl collectors would no doubt have seen these grading codes when browsing. At Beatniks we largely grade our records visually, as we have far too much second hand stock to be able to play each and every record before they hit the racks. An exception to this is when we come across any rare records that might be at the upper end of the price scale. In this instance we may look to see how they play, particularly if they have any visual blemishes. So you will sometimes see them on the price stickers of records in our rare and collectable section. 

And we definitely use this grading system when it comes to pricing our pre-owned records before they hit the shelves. To provide an example, we’ll generally price an Australian issue first pressing of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon (an album which we’ll usually get through the door every few months) at around the market value $60 to $80 mark – provided it is in a VG++ condition or greater. But if it’s only in a VG- or lower condition (with the record containing scratches, scuffs and/or the cover having major flaws) then the price we put it out for will be significantly less. And if it’s too beat-up then it won’t even make it out to the racks at all.

So the next time you’re in the store and are curious to find out more about record gradings and how we apply them, feel free to ask us. We can also usually play the record for you in-store if you want to clarify just how it will sound when you get it home.