Quantcast MAKING THE GRADE : The 45 RPM Grading Guide : How To Grade 45 RPM Records
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MAKING THE GRADE : The 45 RPM Grading Guide : How To Grade 45 RPM Records

By Jon R. Warren
Jon Warren was the founder, creator and editor of The Overstreet Update from 1982-1992 and then Senior Price Guide Editor for WIZARD: THE GUIDE TO COMICS from 1993-2003. He is now president of 2nd Markets Corporation.Contact him at jon@2ndmarkets.com

Vinyl Records, like coins, stamps, sports cards, movie posters, and everything else that people collect, are valued according to condition. Because human beings prize things that glitter, the more like new an object is, the more collectors will pay for it. Seems simple enough, right? WRONG! Because arguing about condition actually means negotiating price, buyers and sellers often have a hard time agreeing on grade. But, fortunately, standard terms exist that everyone agrees on (what those terms mean is another story). Sadly, it takes years of looking at thousands of variations before you can truly become a knowledgeable grader. So how do you know what grade a record is in if you are new at making the grade? Let me suggest that you start simple and then close in on the final grade.

First let's look at some general terms that could be used to describe the condition of an old vinyl record, then we'll cover some specialized terms that dealers and collectors use.


We all know what this is, it's a record in brand new condition. A brand new record that has never been played is probably in PERFECT, like-new condition. The term for a record in perfect condition is NEW. Although some dealers will try to convince you that 30 or 40 year old records are not graded as strictly as newer ones, I would not believe it if I were you. When it comes to PERFECT, new is new, period.


If someone bought a record, played it once or twice, and then carefully filed it away, it is in ABOVE AVERAGE condition. We refer to records in above average condition as EXCELLENT (abbreviated E or EX).


The term record collectors use to describe AVERAGE condition is VERY GOOD (or VG for short). Since records were meant to be played and handled, those that have been played and handled are in average condition. Minor shelf scratches, grey grooves, minor writing on the label... these are thngs that are typical from normal use and is both common and acceptable in a VG condition record.


Records that you owned when you were six years old are probably in BELOW AVERAGE condition because you probably beat the @@#$!! out of them. And they look it! The record is still complete with heavy groove wear and probably lots of scratches from careless storage. You probably wrote your name in big black letters on the label to make sure no one else could claim your prized possession as their own. In other words, records in BELOW AVERAGE condition are...ROUGH ROUGH! Collectors describe records in below average condition as GOOD. Actually, there's nothing good about it other than the fact that you have a copy to keep until a better one comes along.


Better known by the technical term "swillage" first coined by Steve Geppi. A record in poor condition looks like it was rescued from the trash can of history...and probably was. You know you have handled a poor condition record when you rush to wash your hands afterwards. Poor means TERRIBLE...it may not even play!

Now that you know the five basic ranges of condition a record can be in, it's much easier to focus in on exactly what the real grade is. Try it yourself. Take a stack of your records and grade them. Is the first one in the stack just like the day you bought it except for a tiny spec on the label? Then it's not PERFECT, but you could certainly say it's ABOVE AVERAGE. Put it in the EX stack. Does the next one in the stack look played and re-played? Put it in the AVERAGE stack. Continue sorting the records into basic grades. When you are done, refer to the following detailed grading descriptions. Start at the lowest grade a work your way up. Think in terms of 1 to 10, with AVERAGE being a 5. The one that sounds closest to the grade of your record is the actual grade.

These are the technical grading terms collectors use to describe condition. At trade shows and on eBay you will see these grades and grade-codes used to indicate grade. Memorize them, learn what they mean, and then you can start MAKING THE GRADE like a pro.


Collectors have widely accepted a 10-point system for describing GRADE.

NEW 10.0 (N)

Perfect. Never played. Unused (usually old store stock) having never been handled. A very rare grade.

MINT 9.9

An almost perfect 9.9 on a 1-10 scale. A flawless copy in the same condition as the day it was printed. The MINT grade is practically non-existent in pre-1970 comics. Golden age comics in MINT condition are an extremely rare find and fetch huge premiums over average copies of the same comic. When grading a comic mint, no consideration should be given to the age of the book. No printing defects can appear on a MINT comic. The cover should have full original gloss, and appear bright, with sharp corners and no imperfections of any sort. Minute color variations may occur during printing, and are allowed in the MINT classification. The inside covers and all pages are creamy white and fresh. The binding (spine) is tight, flat, and clean without wear or stress lines. Not the slightest blemish can be detected around staples, along the binding and edges, or at corners. Arrival dates penciled (not inked) on the cover are usually acceptable as long as they are very small. When the surfaces of the front and back covers are held to the light, not the slightest wear, indentations, wrinkles or defects of any kind can be observed. As comics must be truly perfect to be in this grade, they are obviously extremely scarce and are seldom offered for sale.


9.4 on a 1-10 scale. A copy that is virtually MINT but for one or two very tiny imperfections. For example, a tiny (1/16th inch) edge tear is allowable in this category if no other imperfections are present. A very few tiny stress lines along the spine could be present. Pages and covers should be creamy to white, not yellow or brown. No color touch-ups, repair or restoration of any kind is allowed in this grade. This grade is very rare in books prior to 1970.

NM- 9.2

Bottom of the NM range.


9 on a 1-10 scale. Beautiful, glossy and excellent in every way with one minor imperfection keeping it out of the higher grades. One tiny corner crease of less that 1/8th inch length is allowed. A couple of tiny (1/16th inch) stress lines along the spine are acceptable if the appearance of the book is not gravely affected. Pages should be creamy white, not yellowed or tan. A common defect in this grade is a tiny spine tear at the upper or lower binding (spine) not greater then 1/16th of an inch in length. One or two tiny tears (1/16th inch) are permitted in this grade if the copy is otherwise flawless. An extremely tiny tear repair, color touch-up, unobtrusive arrival date erasure or other similar invisible alteration, on an otherwise near mint copy, is permitted in this grade.

VF+ 8.5

Top of the VF range.


8 on a 1-10 scale. Superb. An outstanding copy in an unusual state of preservation. Clean and bright with sharp corners and pliant interior paper. Slight cover wear is present; possibly 5 or 6 tiny wrinkles or stress lines at the staples where the cover has been opened a few times; still clean and flat with 80 percent of cover gloss retained. Interior page quality should be creamy to white, not yellowish or brown. A few tiny color chips or imperfections could be present. A faint 1/4" corner crease on an otherwise exceptional copy could be present in this grade. Very minor professional restoration or repair is permitted in this grade if noted and described.

VF- 7.5

Bottom of the VF range.


7 on a 1-10 scale. Above average. A clean, bright copy lacking the crispness associated with Very Fine. Pages can be slightly yellowed, not brown or brittle. Several tiny stress lines along the spine and cover can be expected. Several tiny color flakes are permitted. No subscription creases or spine roll allowed in this grade. Corners may be slightly rounded. Exceptional cover gloss remains (60 percent or more).

FN+ 6.5

Top of the FINE range.

FINE (FN 6.0)

6 on a 1-10 scale. Slightly better-than-average copy with obvious aging and diminishment, but still relatively flat, clean and glossy without subscription creases, writing on the cover (except possibly an arrival date), brown margins or tape repairs. Typical flaws include: light spine wear, minor surface wear, a light crease (1/4" in length), minor yellowing/tanning to interior pages. Still a bright copy with 50 per cent cover gloss. A few stress lines around the staples and along the spine are normal in this grade, but not more than 1/8" in length. One small edge chip or several tiny chips (such as Marvel chips) are permitted in this grade. One minor tear is allowed on an otherwise FVF copy. A very minor spine roll on an otherwise clean and uncreased copy is permitted in this grade.

F- 5.5

Bottom of the FINE range.


5 on a 1-10 scale. Better than VG+, approaching FINE but not quite sharp enough to merit the higher grade. Frequently, a FINE copy with an unusual flaw is lowered to VG/F.

VG+ 4.5

Top of the VG range. Slightly below a VG/F copy.


4 on a 1-10 scale. Average. Ordinary signs of use. Appears used, but not abused. The common state of preservation of a comic book that has been used as intended. Significant diminishment of original cover glossiness. Noticeable discoloration or fading could be present. One or two minor markings on covers is permitted. Minor spine rolling may have occurred. Lightly creased along extremities; a faint subscription crease is allowed. The covers could have a minor tear or crease where a corner was folded under. The centerfold could be detached or loose from the staples. A small chip or piece from the covers, or a small piece from an interior page that does not affect the live area (artwork area), is acceptable. Pages and inside covers could be tannish or yellowed, but not brittle. A small tape repair could be present in this grade. Still, the appearance of the comic is such that many collectors find the book acceptable until a better copy can be located.

VG- 3.5

Bottom of the VG range.


3 on a 1-10 scale. Approaching VERY GOOD but with too many signs of abuse to be a solid VERY GOOD. G/VG and G+ represent a very slight variation in grade.

G+ 2.5

Top of the GOOD range.

GOOD (G 2.0)

2 on a 1-10 scale. Below average. A worn copy but playable, albeit with loud surface noise, pops and hisses, which may almost completely obscure the music. Label may be scratched, scuffed, soiled, faded. An accumulation of defects such as scratches, Writing on Label (WOL), or chips and general wear prevent this record from any higher classification.

G- 1.5

Bottom of the GOOD range.

FR+ 1.5

Interchangeable with G-. Again, either stick to a system of + or = but not both. There is no difference between a G- and a FR+.

FAIR (FR 1.0)

1 on a 1-10 scale. Used and abused. Extremely worn, scratched, and dirty, with possibly a chipped edge or one or more cracks, but still complete. May or may not play, a statement should be made either way.


0 on a 1-10 scale. A terrible copy. Damaged; extremely worn; dirty or otherwise unsuited for collection purposes. Could be cracked. May not play.

This article has been read 4738 times. Last read on 5/25/2024 8:08:25 PM

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