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Vinyl Guides and Grading

What are your records worth?


Vinyl Guides and Grading
Photo by Dimitri Vervitsiotis / Getty Images

How you grade your record albums is the single most important factor in any record collection and one that is the most subjective. What may be a mint record to you may not be to the more experienced record collector.

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to play and test every record before they would buy it and everyone would agree on a grading system. But, alas, since that is both impractical and impossible, records are usually graded according to industry standards.

Now, just what are the industry standards? While shopping online for vinyl you may encounter Web sites with their own way of grading a vinyl record. Some will use the standard grading terms like mint, very good or excellent, good, fair or poor and then put a series of plus or minus signs behind them. Others may incorporate a numerical value ranging from 10-1, with 10 being the best or mint. It is imperative that you understand how the merchant or individual grades the records before you decide to make a purchase from them.

I was browsing eBay one night and decided to purchase a 45 single by The Yardbirds that the seller rated VG+. I paid the $3.00 for the record, it was shipped, and when I opened the package, was I disappointed! I would have never graded that record a VG+. I would have graded it at G, if that.

After we exchanged some angry words by email, the seller told me to play the record. I did and it was then I decided, yes, the seller was right in his grading assessment. The record played very well and did warrant the VG+ grade that he had given it.

The only true way to grade a record is to play it. You can look at it all you want and see the physical flaws, but until you play the record, you can’t know what problems will arise form these imperfections until you hear the music.

How Do I Know What It's Worth?

As buyers or sellers of vinyl, we put our trust in the record price guides that are released yearly. These give us an idea of what to pay for a specific record or, conversely, what to charge, if we are selling an album.

The guides supply us with updates on trends in the industry, what genres are "hot" and overall record prices. I will not get into the debate on which one you should use, which is like me telling you which kind of car to drive. It is a personal choice.

But there is a master flaw with all record price guides irregardless of the publisher. They are often outdated by the time they go to press.

Jerry Osborne has written more than over 130 record price guides and continues to add to that total. He has also published three collector news and marketplace magazines Record Digest, Music World, and DISCoveries.

Using the technology available today, Osborne has created a service called Cyberguides. Each day, Osborne's database is revised, corrected and updated, then once a week, the up-to-date record price guide is distributed by email.

Next - watch video on how to store and how to clean vinyl records

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