Goldmine Grading System
At White Elephant Records we follow the grading system first developed by Goldmine Records with an additional grading of Very Good Minus (Vg-) and a single grading of Good (G). Virtually all methods currently in use for the grading of LP records are based in some way, shape, or form, on the Goldmine system.
Visual and/or Play Grade
In an ideal world, every record would be played before it is graded. But the time involved makes it impractical for most dealers to play every record, and it is rare that you get a chance to hear a record before you buy through the mail. At White Elephant Records, we occasionally play-grade some records to determine a grading that may be borderline. But unless otherwise noted, records are visually graded
How We Grade
We examine everything about a record: the playing surface, the label, the edges, the shape, ie is it warped? The examination is conducted under a strong light. Before proceeding we thoroughly clean the record, if required, to enable a better assessment of the quality of the vinyl. Then based on our overall impression we allocate a grade based on the following criteria:
Mint (M) Absolutely perfect in every way. Certainly may never have been played, possibly even still sealed. (See the note on Still Sealed below). Mint Grading is used sparingly as the majority of records do not meet this measure.
Near Mint (NM or M-) A nearly perfect record. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than this implying (perhaps correctly) that no record is ever truly perfect.
The record should show no obvious signs of wear. A 45 RPM or EP sleeve should have no more than the most minor defects, such as almost invisible ring wear or other signs of slight handling.
An LP cover should have no creases, folds, seam splits or other noticeable similar defects, nor any cut-out holes. The same applies to any other inserts, such as posters, lyric pages and internal sleeves.
Basically, an LP in near mint condition looks as if you just brought it home from a record store, removed the shrink wrap, ready to go on the turntable for a first spin.
Near Mint is the highest price listed in all Goldmine price guides.
Very Good Plus (VG+) A Very Good Plus record may show some slight signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
Record surfaces may show some slight signs of wear and may have slight scuff marks that do not affect one’s listening experiences. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are generally acceptable.
The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable. The centre hole will not have been misshapen by repeated play.
Picture sleeves and LP inner sleeves may have some slight wear, lightly turned up corners, or a slight seam split. An LP cover may have slight signs of wear also and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation or corner indicating it was taken out of print and sold at a discount.
In general, if not for a couple things wrong with it, this would be Near Mint. All but the most mint-crazy collectors will find a Very Good Plus record highly acceptable.
Very Good (VG) Many of the defects found in a VG+ record will be more pronounced in a VG disc. Surface noise may be evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and fade, but will not overpower the music otherwise. Groove wear will start to be noticeable, as with light scratches (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound.
Labels may be slightly worn and scuffed. The same will be true of picture sleeves or LP covers, which may display ringwear. However, it will not have all of these problems at the same time, only one or two of them.
Very Good Minus (Vg-) Many of the defects found in a VG record will be much more pronounced in a VG disc. Surface noise will be evident upon playing, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and fade, but will not overpower the music otherwise. Groove wear will start to be noticeable, as with light scratches (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound. The first tracks on both sides may also display a hissing and scratchy effect, although the LP will generally play OK.
Labels may be marred by writing, or have tape or stickers (or their residue) attached, or display ringwear. The same will be true of picture sleeves or LP covers. However, it will not have all of these problems at the same time, only two or three of them.
Good (G) Generally worth 30 percent of the Near Mint value. Good does not mean Bad! A record in Good condition can be put onto a turntable and will play through without skipping. But it will have significant surface noise and scratches and visible groove wear (on a styrene record, the groove will be starting to turn white).
A cover or sleeve will have seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, ring wear or other defects will start to overwhelm the object.