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How to Grade Items

The condition of each piece of media will greatly influence its value. No matter how rare the item is, it will not be worth much if it doesn’t sound (and look) good. However, the condition is unique to each and every item. Here’s a quick guide to determining the condition of your physical music and grading it accordingly.

Inspect the Item

You must give the item a visual inspection and, in most cases, play it to grade how it sounds. This expectation applies to all types of physical media, including vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, box sets, and more.

How Does It Look?

Inspect the sleeve, case, and any inserts for wear, discoloration, sticker residue, and seam splits. Next, look at the item’s surface for scratches and other imperfections. Visually inspecting an item is best done under a bright light positioned close to the surface.

How Does It Sound?

Give the record a spin, load the CD into a tray, or slide the cassette into a deck. Do you hear clicks, pops, or skipping? Listen to the media in its entirety. Make note of the different sounds and what side they correspond to.

Reference the Grading Standard

Discogs uses the Goldmine Grading Guide, a universally accepted standard for representing the condition of physical music in the resale market. The levels range from Mint (perfect) down to Poor/Fair (damaged).

Grade the different components of the item separately. For example, the vinyl record can be in Near Mint condition, but the album cover may only be Very Good because it shows signs of wear.

Use Comments to Add Clarification

Your listing’s comments section can justify your grading and note any additional issues that may not drastically affect the item’s grading, such as inaudible but visible blemishes or slight dings. The more detail, the better.

Comments will help you cut down on potential buyer confusion and show that you have a good understanding of the record you’re selling.

Goldmine Grading Guide

These standards will help your grade the condition of your physical media, including vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes. Don’t forget to grade each component separately.

See more examples of grading by format

goldmine standard logo mint

Mint (M)

The item and container are absolutely perfect in every way. To qualify as Mint, the item must never have been played and is possibly still sealed. Mint should be used sparingly as a grade, if at all. Note that an item can be sealed and not Mint. If you suspect your record is in Mint condition, do not play it.

goldmine standard logo near mint

Near Mint (NM)

The item is nearly perfect. Near Mint (NM) media has more than likely never been played, and if it has, there will be no imperfections during playback. The item should show no obvious signs of wear. The cover or container can have very minor defects., but it should have no folds, seam splits, scratches, or other noticeable similar defects. The same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, etc. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than NM, implying (perhaps correctly) that no item is ever truly perfect.

goldmine standard logo very good plus

Very Good Plus (VG+)

The item will show some signs that it was played and handled by a previous owner who took good care of it. Any defects are of a cosmetic nature and do not affect the actual playback. In theory, a Very Good Plus (VG+) item should sound the same as a Near Mint (NM) one. Surfaces may show some signs of wear, such as slight scuffs or very light scratches, and slight warps that do not affect the sound are okay. Paper products like sleeves will have some wear, slightly turned-up corners, or a small seam-split. In general, it plays perfectly, and if not for some minor aesthetic wear, it would be Near Mint.

goldmine standard logo very good

Very Good (VG)

The item’s defects will be more pronounced. 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. Wear will start to be noticeable, such as with light scratches on vinyl (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound. Labels, covers, and sleeves may be marred by writing or have tape, stickers, and residue attached. However, a VG item will not have all of these problems at the same time.

goldmine standard logo good and good plus

Good (G), Good Plus( G+)

An item in Good (G) or Good Plus (G+) condition can be played through without skipping, but it will have significant surface noise, scratches, crackling, or visible wear. A container, cover, or sleeve will have scratches or seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, or other defects will also be present.

goldmine standard logo poor fair

Poor (P), Fair (F)

The item is cracked, badly warped, and won’t play through without skipping or repeating. The container or cover could be cracked, water-damaged, and heavily marred by wear or writing. If it is a vinyl record, the album cover and inner sleeves are fully split, crinkled, and written upon. Poor (P) or Fair (F) records are generally worth very little.

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Essential Resources

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