VG+ is a baseline vinyl record grade
After having 10 years under my belt as a vinyl record aficionado, and selling them online for the past 8 years. I have noticed that the VG+ grade is sort of the default grade being used, which is OK as long as you are grading conservatively and play testing the vinyl you’re selling.
I think the VG+ vinyl grade description pretty much is accepted as a baseline by most as the definitive least acceptable quality grade. Most accept the Goldmine grading system as the definitive word on vinyl grading, VG, VG+, EX, and Near Mint.
Records that fall below the VG grade are riskier, and may have audible defects, thought the VG Minus grade sounds worse than it actually is, and Good, is not nearly as good as the word suggests, confused?
My main issue is, many people, both sellers and buyers misinterpret this commonly used VG+ grade: As long as you work from the premise VG+ is a solid play copy, with light noise, and you only expect 25-50% of what mint is selling for, you’ll be OK buying or selling. Of course the laws of supply and demand dictate these costs, and every auction is its own little world.
The Fair or Good grade is not VG+ though, and a lot of novices will say VG+ when the record is all scratched up. I will offer my thoughts below about record grading both as a seller and as a buyer:
The Bottom line:
To save yourself a lot of pain, buy at a minimum only records that are at least VG or VG+. This is what I specifically do. I even sell EX to Near Mint records at VG+ to error on the side of caution. I would rather a customer be pleasantly surprised, than risk over grading.
Buyers should know: VG+ is NOT Near Mint
There is a wide gap between VG+ and Near Mint: This is where I differ with the Goldmine standard. They don’t see as big of a difference as I do between VG+ and Near Mint. But judging by the records I have purchased the past 10 years, most everyone else buying and selling feels the way I do.
Near Mint is almost perfect. VG+ is a good play copy but certainly not even close to Mint. Remember many people use a grade of Excellent (Ex.) For that, a record that’s in between VG+ and Near Mint. I also get the feeling some use the Excellent grade as their personal VG+ as well. Just check their seller feedback, you’ll get a good sense about it that way.
Near Mint or Mint had better be Mint.
Near Mint, is just what it says, almost perfect, with very few flaws. I have had complaints over the years from some buyers when they said very light surface noise was present on a VG+ record. They should have looked for Near Mint vinyl in my opinion.
VG is Not VG+ either: This is also an issue that pops up, couldn’t tell you how many records I have bought that were VG “with sounding marks that can be felt with a light brush of the thumb”, they were billed as VG+, when VG at the least should have been the grade.
“Moderate” scuffs and marks is not a VG+ record, many pops and ticks almost always are associated with a VG record “not constant though”. VG+ however, should play through nicely with no more than light static, and maybe some light ticks here and there. VG+ should be a solid listening experience, without surface noise overpowering the music, but it’s certainly not Near Mint.
Check out some Mint Beatles vinyl on eBay. You pay for mint, no doubt about that!
Buyers should recognize that sealed reissues might be what you really want
Over the past 4 years I have had a few buyers who honestly didn’t understand what the grades meant. Especially a new collector with a hole in their wallet, they are buying vinyl without really considering the grade.
I am hearing more and more about people buying records, who have clearly not read the detailed description about the record as well. You know that type of laziness is bound to cause some problems.
last year I had a guy ding me in the not as described detailed ratings system on eBay who purchased a VG late-50’s Columbia Records Dave Brubeck LP for $3.99.
The record was clearly described as “VG and not VG+ with some audible surface noise“. I even went as far as stating 1 particular light pop on a specific track, the record was still very listenable though.
The buyer in question was irate about the surface noise. When I quizzed him about whether he read the description or not, he just made a smart comment that I should have put that in the top listing title description. He said VG should mean no noise. He obviously had no idea what he was talking about, so I took the time to educate him.
Here’s an example of a proper response to one such customer:
“Again I would like to thank you for your purchase, I am truly sorry you’ve had a negative experience with me.
I have refunded your full purchase price. I believe the type of records you are looking for are Near Mint, Mint, or Sealed. These records will have minimal to no surface noise.
Those sealed records will be much more expensive of course, but you will be getting a top copy. Almost every record I sell is in the VG+ range, I do not sell mint archival copies. I do offer Good play copies for the price. I Look forward to doing business another time with you”
It’s buyer beware: You should familiarize yourself with what the grades actually mean
I am also very careful when buying, asking questions about vague or non pictured listings. If someone has low feedback, or they specialize in something other than vinyl records, ask questions before a bid or purchase.
I feel the buyer should at least educate themselves on the Goldmine grading system, the buyer should really understand what their surface noise tolerance is too.
Personally I have a high tolerance with open air listening, but with headphones, that’s a totally different story. I couldn’t listen to anything other than mint vinyl with headphones, as the surface noise becomes isolated and very pronounced.
So in other words, if you plan on converting a bunch of vinyl to MP3, beware of that surface noise issue, I have in the past converted files, and was not happy how that noise was right out in front to my ears when listening on the iPod.
These were VG+ records I had converted for the most part, I bet if I was converting Mint vinyl there would have been no issue.
Just remember: VG+ is a used copy that will look used, it has been taken care of by the previous owner but probably played a bit (they liked the music), this type of record will have some audible surface noise of one type or another, just not overwhelming.
The very vague and confusing VG++ Grade
I can not stand the extra +, what is that? Is it really Near Mint Minus with the minus canceled out? As a collector myself, these convoluted grades drive me nuts. I just want a fairly clean record that plays with no more than light surface noise.
I don’t mind using or seeing the “strong” VG+ to emphasize the quality of the grade, especially if play tested.
Without someone actually looking at the record, it is impossible to give a 100% accurate grade on anything, with people having so many ideas about what the grades mean.
With so many people selling records in storefronts, both physical and online. you have literally a grading system for each seller, and as mentioned above, every buyer has their own idea as well.
You really should play test all records you sell. For 5 dollar bargain vinyl, I don’t always test, but if I am going to sell something for 20 bucks or more I want to know it plays through without an issue. Both buyers and sellers benefit from this of course.
The Bottom Line:
Unless the seller says VG++ or Ex, in the description expect VG+, and be happy with it. If you buy a record that says Near mint in the description, and the record has multiple visual marks and looks played a lot, demand a refund, and tell the seller to stop over grading their records, in a respectful tone of course:)
If selling, be careful not to over grade
To be safe, I believe all sellers should be conservative, even if you think a record is real close to near mint or near mint minus, “what ever the heck that is”? VG+ should be a safe grade visually, a grade that even if not tested, will likely give a quality experience for a buyer.
This is where the VG++ grade is really problematic, How does one really know that a record lies between VG+ and Near Mint?
We need to simplify, not complicate the process. Again: Near Mint is almost perfect, maybe a light sleeve scuff is all on the playing surface.
Most sealed records don’t even meet this standard once opened? “Presumed” Mint is a good qualifier to add to a listing too. I do believe conservative grading is the way to go, and if you are just starting out, it really is the only way to go.
Honestly, the only way to be sure the buyer gets what they want is: Make sure you take photos of everything you can, especially any defect on the cover, labels, or playing surface.
Grade under the brightest light possible. Play test high-dollar vinyl if you can, I realize if you have a high volume for sale that is simple impossible to do, so visually grading needs to be pretty good on the seller’s part. It will help you out at the thrift stores as well, saving you money on bringing home junk.
Grading bargain vinyl
I realize with bulk listing, and thousands of new inventory, it’s tough to be detailed on bargain vinyl. You have to quickly grade some times. You’ll know VG+ when you see it after a while, but anything you expect to ask more than a few dollars for, you have to be detailed with the grade and the play test.
Play test the vinyl if possible
If possible, I highly recommend play testing anything that you expect a high dollar amount for. Why put yourself in a situation where the buyer informs you that the record skipped or worse, stuck. You can always get a cheap starter turntable, it won’t set you back more than 100 dollars.
Thanks for reading my thoughts, opinions will vary. I have learned that everybody has their own subtle differences when grading. Most of us though, are pretty close, none of us wants to sell or buy junk of course.
If you’re looking for places to buy cheap vinyl for your own collection, or to turn around online, check out my article on where to buy cheap vinyl records. I have literally found thousands of records at these places over the years.
*Photos are my own*
Related posts at Spacial Anomaly
Table of Contents
- Buyers should know: VG+ is NOT Near Mint
- Near Mint or Mint had better be Mint.
- Buyers should recognize that sealed reissues might be what you really want
- It’s buyer beware: You should familiarize yourself with what the grades actually mean
- The very vague and confusing VG++ Grade
- If selling, be careful not to over grade
- Grading bargain vinyl
- Play test the vinyl if possible
Jason Sositko, a freelance writer and entrepreneur is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I also use services such as Viglink and Skimlinks to earn income via links placed inside articles.