How to Grade Vinyl Records

Grading Vinyl Records

If you're into buying or selling vinyl, understanding the vinyl grading system is must-have knowledge! While it isn’t an exact science, knowing how to grade vinyl records can help you get the best bang for your buck or or help you avoid adding "duds" to your record collection. Below we provide an overview of the vinyl record grading system, going into detail on each of the 8 possible grades.

The Vinyl Grading System

When grading vinyl records, each record is assigned acronym/abbreviation that displays its quality relative to industry standards. The better the grade, the better the sound quality and potential lifespan for the record. The grading system can also be applied to the album cover and inner sleeve, as well. The vinyl record grade are:

Mint (M)

A mint record is perfect in every way. It has not been played before and has likely never been removed from its package. These records are typically brand new or have been collected and left in the shrink wrap. Mint records typically come with a higher price point than used vinyl.

Near Mint (NM)

These records are typically excellent investments. The vinyl has that glossy look and has likely only been played a couple of times. The packaging will look nearly untouched with no wear and tear. Buyers of Near Mint vinyl should also expect no sound distortion or surface noise.

Excellent (E)

Quite similar to a VG+ record, Excellent graded records have minimal scratches and audio distortions. Most of these records have only been out of their sleeves and on a turntable a handful times. They may show a few signs of use but have been treated with great care.

Very Good Plus (VG+)

A record with VG+ rating is without any major faults and there should only be very very minor audio distortion. On the downside, you may find a few inaudible marks and a slight background crackle. A few flaws may become apparent on close inspection, although these records are generally good investments and should last for years to come.

Very Good (VG)

A Very Good (VG) rated record has generally experienced significant use. The record will still he very useable with plenty of life left in it, however, there will likely be a few minor sound distortions and surface noise.

These records often carry light pops and clicks and may have a few light but visible scratches. While they may have seen better days, you’ll still get some good use out of them.

Good (G)

At face value, a Good rating may seem like something positive. However, for vinyl records, this G grade likely still means poor quality.

It is a noticeable step up over records with a Poor or Fair grade, although you’ll likely experience distortions in the sound quality and will have visible scratching that decreases aesthetics of the vinyl. Given that many music enthusiasts will sell records of high quality, vinyl with a G rating is generally in an undesirable condition.

Poor (P) or Fair (F)

Either of these ratings indicates a vinyl that is in relatively poor condition. Discs that have these ratings will have poor sound quality. Records in Poor or Fair condition often have deep scratching and will regularly skip, repeat, and/or have a significant amount of surface noise.

While these records tend to come with a significant discount, it is generally best practice to avoid these records, as they will provide a disappointing experience.

Grading Vinyl Records in Closing

So there you have our overview of how to grade vinyl records. Have questions? Comments? Feedback? Leave us a note in the comments section below and we'll get back with you.

Binaural Staff


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