The following article is reproduced courtesy of Tim Toms (Back-Trac Records).
Excellent / VG++
Fair / Poor
Special Note about Vinyl Quality
Grades that Don't Exist
In Compiling this information the following people have participated with vital information....
Susan Murray (NOD International Records) email@example.com
Fred Walker (Vinylonly) firstname.lastname@example.org
Paula Major (Paula's House of Music) email@example.com
And of course myself, Tim Toms (Back-Trac Records) firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 1996 by Weldon T. Toms (Tim)
The following grades defined are derived from the system used by Goldmine magazine. This is not to say that other grading systems are not viable. The grades defined here are among the mainstream. They are not to be confused with any other system. It is to be used only as a reference but keep in mind, that when grading, anyone can choose alternative grading systems for records as long as they can define the terms they use without confusion.
FAQ: Compiled August 16th, 1996
Goldmine Grading System Defined: Questions and Answers
Questions in this section
Q1: What is the Goldmine Grading System ?
A1: The Goldmine Grading System was 1st created in the early years of record collecting. These grades were established from various other resources pertaining to collecting (for example coin, book, comics, and card collecting). Goldmine Magazine first published a grading scale in 1974. It has undergone changes through out the years, yet has for the most part remained the same. *** Remember! Two people may not come up with the same grade for the same record. One person may feel a record is MINT and another may say NM (Near Mint). After reading the next part of this answer, perhaps you will be able to identify each grade with out too much confusion, and allow yourself to grade more conservatively (fairly).
Q2: How can I grade my own vinyl based on these grades?
A2: Below is the grade scale and what you should look for when assessing a grade for each record you have.
Grade Scale with definitions of each grade:
MINT or M
Perfect! A mint record should look like it has just left the manufacturer, with NO flaws what so ever. It should look as though it had never been handled. No scuffs or scratches, blotches or stains. No stickers address labels, writing on the covers or labels. No tears or seam splits. No wear to the cover or record period! Age of the record has nothing to do with it. A MINT record from 1949 should look like a MINT record from 1996. The number one complaint from collectors about grading over the years, have been the deteriorating standards that dealers and private sellers have had when grading. It is only natural for most people to turn to the "MINT" grade and read "highest prices" listed in price guides. Since most price guides have a high and low price range, the assumed grade most often is NOT mint, but near mint (NM).
*** Okay, but how can I honestly grade a record MINT???
*** MINT COVERS: Simply put, a mint cover should appear to have never had a record inside it. No wear to the corners or any marks on the face or back of the cover. EP jackets (for 7 inch extended plays) and 45 single picture sleeves also apply to this rule. The record inside can cause an impression (a round shape in the face of the cover/sleeve) Many dealers or sellers feel that the artwork (the ink) has to be worn or starting to rub off, before there is any ring wear. NOPE!! Mint means perfect and nothing else!
**NOTE Anytime a person calls anything MINT you should expect a perfect, visually flawless item. We should actually use the term PERFECT rather than the term MINT. Probably no one would ever use this grade. PERFECT is to say that man (who is not perfect) can produce a perfect item. No way! MINT is already abused in the open market and many people would be disappointed when they find some flaw to cause it to be an overgrade. My feelings are NOTHING is perfect and to call anything MINT is purely "Hype".
***2ND SPECIAL NOTE It has been brought to my attention that because stickers may involve promo and special track listings that were applied from the factory, it is still not a standard practice. Promo stickers and large white programming labels (on the bottom of the covers) are considered a turn off. Therefore even these stickers would lower the grade from a MINT status to perhaps only EX. Stickers that show special announcements, such as "Featuring the hit song...etc.", were not applied to all the commercial releases. Some earlier copies may not have the sticker since the song in question had not even charted yet. It was to advertise the whole LP and draw attention to the buyer. Some stickers are worth money! That means they actually have value. Most companies applied the stickers to the shrink-wrap and thus, one should save these items, but if applied to the covers, NM is the best way to grade these covers. If you wish to place value on the sticker (most are anywhere from 50 cents to $2.00) then do so but make mention of the sticker being on the cover to potential buyers! Many people want sticker free covers!