OUR AUDIO PLAY TESTING IS NOT JUST PLAY GRADING
HOW WE DO VINYL GRADING...
We visually grade under a strong 100w lamp which shows all faults. This is why many have notes like 'B=EX' for accuracy of grading.
To some, a warped record some may knock down a grade or two. This is not professional grading.
The way to describe professionally is to grade it overall ignoring the fault & add the fault separately as a qualifier, eg NM with "Slight Warp" added. An EX record with a clicky scratch is NOT a VG record, it is still an EX record but with a clicky scratch and needs stating as such, as the buyer may not want a clicky record at any grade.
Play Grading is pointless without a Visual Grade, as some jokers who play grade 'it plays EX' are usually using a Dansette & on arrival you'll only be upset with your heavily scuffed tired VG-. See below for our Grade definitions, which may differ from yours.
We buy Records ourselves and generally most we buy are graded right, but we occasionally do get EX records with big scratches, cracks even as well as label marks not revealed. It means you've got an item you'd not really have wanted & for us as dealers, label damage devalues records heavier as the Mint price goes low, ie a £5 mint record with one biro initial goes in the 25p bulk pile as we know it'll never sell singly. No Centre records are not fully the collectable item either as a major part missing & can make huge price differences.
SEE BELOW FOR FULL GRADE DESCRIPTIONS
we keep adding text to this page & it goes further down the page, but it's worth reading on as some nice info to read in between.
LABEL & COVER GRADING
These you can see to decide yourselves in the photos, a picture of both sides of the labels & sleeve tells far more. Look closely, faults such as 'wol' or 'tol' are noted as some are hard to spot, but look at what it means as 'wol' might just be one small initial. Covers are given a basic grade & edge splits you can't see are noted, the rest such as writing stickers, as with labels, is shown in the photo.
we list if the Record plays & sounds OK, regardless of what the warp looks like.
Warps come in 2 main types, the storage warp which is a slow curve or dishing of the vinyl from manufacture or poor pressure related storage problems which unless extreme will play fine on a standard cartridge tracking at 1.5 to 2g. Some exotic cartridges ride too low & will skip on on warps, but we're playing with a Goldring Elektra decent budget £50 cartridge. Then there's the heat-affected warp which is usually a crinkle of sorts. It may be 'flat' with no arm lift on playing or a slight rise that still plays OK. A warped record either plays right or doesn't & gets binned unless of deeper interest, but clearly noted. You can try curing the warp but usually it doesn't do it or if it does & it won't play as it's shrunk! Even if the warp still plays it might have the sound affected in a tape 'wow & flutter' way, ie bendy piano notes sounding seasick.
Records as we've stated, are not always made to high standards when new
some are pressed on cheap vinyl that will always have surface noise, records badly mastered with distortion beyond that in the actual recording, ie loud clipping noises as amps max out. You also get on some 50s USA vinyl & some UK 60s Decca pressings, records that are mastered with a non-standard stylus, leading to playing with a standard stereo one making a muffly hissy sound as the too-narrow stylus rides the too-wide groove's bottom, missing the music! See below for more on this bewildering subject. A record graded Mint is aware of these weaknesses, eg a UK reggae record dubbed from a noisy JA copy doesn't play without noise, but the UK copy we have is Mint IS Mint, it can be no less as that is how it was made. A lot of UK pressed Reggae from 1960-early 70s is really badly mastered, much dubbed from JA vinyl with little care for Hifi values.
M / MINT / top grade USED
The vinyl will appear unmarked, no scuffs, no scratches and no obvious pressing flaws. Signs of careful play may show on the run-in area from autochangers & needle drops as well as a minor amount of spindle use. It is Top Grade Used after all, though you may get a record that had only 2 plays, not that anyone could be sure, so all old vinyl is USED unless sealed & it's not hard to reseal a used item. Mint will play as good as you can get from a 20-60+ year old record. But it is not new anymore. Check the Photos to see the label grade, spindle marks are not noted but 'wol', 'tol' etc is. We do get 1950s records visually Mint but if they have too many Run-In needle trails from old heavy arm record players, they are called Near Mint as it is more used looking even if it plays as good as one barely played. Similarly some Mint records of later years have a tiny non-problem pressing flaw that takes them away from being what a Mint vinyl buyer would expect, so get graded lower or noted.
MINT is NOT Brand New
these are 20-60+ year old items & age becomes everything. It is impossible to prove any unsealed record is Mint & if it's in top grade it doesn't matter if it's had a few careful plays. We've had "Unplayed" items that were damaged mouldy badly stored etc. Are they still Mint as they are Unplayed? Of course not. The labels we have photoed clearly both sides, so no label grade is offered beyond 'label writing', 'label tear'' etc save you clicking & groaning on seeing it. A Mint record may have a lesser label, or a lesser graded one may have a better label. The label, being exposed in the photos may show marks beyond a few spindle marks, check the photos for anything that may concern you.
NM / NEAR MINT
Near Mint, NM, EX+ to us is the same grade. Vinyl has minor imperfections. Light scuffs or one minor mark keep it away from the top vinyl grade. Too many run-in needle trails on an otherwise Mint record get put here. Paper does not mark a record, dust does. NM plays as good as Mint. NM is a record you can buy & play carefully & not be too worried about devaluing. NM is the exact same grade as EX+. Similarly no such grade as EX++++ exists. Keep it simple.
EX / EXCELLENT
This is a more-used but still looked-after record. EX is still a pleasant looking and nice playing record good enough for the majority of buyers, though some now only want NM or better, which means they probably aren't into playing them to enjoy the music & maybe don't know how to grade either. Vinyl has a few noticeable imperfections, eg a non-audible minor mark on an otherwise NM or M record is possible. EX grade on a low-value hit singles or less collectable items are now no longer stocked by us the buyers of today don't buy them unless very cheap. RC still state an EX record is 80% of a Mint price, this is really not so. Today NM (depending on individual rarity/demand) may be the same as Mint or 10% of it. EX today similarly is now considered rather unfairly below dedicated perfectionist grade, so could be 75% to as low as 20% of the NM price. Some records if modern or common can be unsellable if only in EX to a large amount of over-fussy collectors. All the great vinyl they miss out on!
NEAR EX, VG+ and VG
are the lesser grades we occasionally list, each being less than the previous. They are below the required Collector Standard, but if you just want the music or a rarity on the cheap, don't avoid them.
Near EX or lower grade: The record will have been played for longer, likely we'll have played all of it to properly grade it and the bias is more to SOUND than merely looks
eg if it has an obvious grey scratch you'd maybe avoid not knowing if it clicked or not, but plays without the expected click each revolution it'll get a better grade than perhaps you'd grade it on sight alone. Even after our years in vinyl, telling how a scratch will play is fairly impossible to predict simply as your stylus plays the groove midway down, not at the top where the scratch would sound. How deep the scratch goes is the point. A person buying records under EX is after the music or a budget priced rarity, not just after the looks, but they still rightly expect it to play nicely according to the grade.
Near EX looks pretty much like an EX, it will have more light surface marking, the label may start to look a bit more tired. EX- can have one or two scratches or marks but play very similar to the EX with a minor amount of extra noise to the EX. EX- play tested. We add the Minus as a word now some can't see the "-" but now use Near EX to match Near Mint
VG+ is heading into 'Party Time' records, well loved for a short time when new but still reasonably well cared for or ignored in a box and sleeves since. The labels can look further worn especially at the spindle, but still on the right side of looking miserable. More Scratches & Marks that may look worrying and possibly less than VG+ to you will prove to play near EX. Buying a VG+ record without playing it is hit & miss, but from us you'll be sure it'll play adequately if not to NM quality. VG+ play tested.
VG is now heading to the well Partied records, but not wrecked & still having a level of eye appeal rather than not . But buying a quiet track graded VG means it'll sound too noisy for today's ears. It'll play with surface noise of some sort that is more apparent if not louder than the music. It'll sound fine on a Dansette & for the price it's a bargain. We rarely list anything below EX- so you won't see it much. VG is the grade most well-loved records turn up in, which sadly means with cheaper items they are of no value beyond those 100 for £25 bulk lots.
VG minus will be a record with serious visual problems from prolonged storage out of a sleeve. It is a really off-putting term, there is little "Good" about a VG- though you can play it through and get something from the music if you tune your ears away from the surface noise. UK Blue Beats from the 60s generally turn up even worse than this, in VG- or G even, but still have some degree of life left, but the record itself will be pretty used up at VG-. We used to buy VG- 1950s R&B 45s from USA years ago & they were usually too worn & marked for enjoyment especially as USA vinyl is less pure & noisier than UK
To others, VG- might be a VG+ or EX even, but that's not proper grading. Reggae dealers using VG- instead of VG+ as they actually are misleading, although once buyers learn what a seller gives for the grade, they'll adjust their perceptions. If you think our NM is EX then that's not bad, but a minor mismatch. If you think our VG+ is VG- then you've not read how we decide on VG+ properly.