Book Condition ~Book Anatomy ~Record Condition
There is a basic condition vocabulary and rating system amongst book dealers for describing books, so we can communicate with each other. It works pretty well. The condition grades that I use for rScrapZ.com are adapted from Alibris & HalfDot standards. I do not use supercilious grades like "mint" (books are not coins) or "Near Fine" (it either is or it isn't). I do use plus and minus signs (+/-) though, just like in high school. I tend to over describe flaws and undervalue the condition grade so that the book looks better than you expected it would.
These are used books though, and everything is subjective. On out-of-print book searches I am often relying on someone else's description of the book, and they may or may not be as serious about these condition grades as I am. Usually they are. If, however, you receive a book from me (whether it's a book search or not) and you think the book is not as it was described you may return it to me for a full refund, less shipping. You must return the book within ten days, and advance notice of your intent is appreciated.
Questions about the particular condition of a book that I quote for sale are always welcomed. We will send additional pictures, if requested.
As New describes a book that is in immaculate, crisp condition with a perfect dust jacket. I generally use this term only to describe new books (and, frankly, some new books are no longer in As New condition by the time they get shipped out) or to describe books so pristine that the spine hasn't even been cracked. I basically don't believe this term can be used to describe a book older than 15 years because the very feel of the book will tell you it's old, even if it's in perfect condition and no one has ever opened it.
Fine describes a book that approaches being As New, without the crispness. There can be no visible defects, and the book is clean and bright, and its dust jacket without any rips or stains. Older books may show minor defects.
Very Good describes a book that is clean and bright but which may show subtle signs of its age, such as very minor knicks or scratches. Any defects are noted.
G. Good describes an average used book that shows some wear and perhaps small tears, but whose interior is clean. Any other defects are noted.
Poor describes a book that has all its pages intact but which was obviously well loved and well read in its past life. I try not to have any of these, but occassionally hard-to-find out-of-print books are hard to come by in any other form (at least at a reasonable cost). I sometimes refer to books in this condition as Reading Copies.
Unacceptable describes a book that has pages missing I try not to have any of these, but if I have another copy, I will duplicate these the missing pages and note and rate according to the other conditions given.
Ex-Library (Ex-Lib, XLib) describes a book that once belonged to a public or institutional library (and has been deaccessioned). Usually these books show some markings on the title and copyright page, as well as the endpapers. I spend a lot of time cleaning up ex-library books to remove the worst of these sins: rear pockets, stickers, dirty dust jacket covers, etc. If I state that the book shows "usual marks" then several marks are present, but you'd be surprised how clean some library books can be (at least after I work on them some), and I'll likewise remark on that. All ex-library books are so noted, along with a condition grade. There is no such thing as an ex-library book in As New condition, but many are Very Good, and sometimes the dust jackets (in new plastic protectors) are beautiful.
I grade the condition of the book and its dust jacket separately;
the first grade refers to the book, the second to the dust jacket (DJ).
For example: GEMM
F/F refers to a book in Fine condition with Fine DJ
VG/G- refers to a book in Very Good condition with a less than Good DJ
VG+ refers to a book in better than Very Good condition but with no DJ
The condition of a book is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book, the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dustjacket is not present.
Unfortunately, this standard is not used universally by all GEMM sellers. A ''VG'' for one seller might only be a "G" graded by another seller''s standards. Be sure to look at a seller''s individual "grading" policies if the precise condition of an item is of concern.
Brand New Brand new, unused, unopened & undamaged, in perfect condition. The original packaging (if any) and all materials (if any) are included and in brand new condition.
As New Same condition as when it was published. There should be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one) must be without any tears.
Fine (F or FN) Almost the same as the condition of As New, but without being crisp. Also, there should be no defects, etc., and any tears, or other defect, or a worn look, should be noted.
Very Good (VG) Shows some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects should be noted.
Good (G) An average used, worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects should be noted.
Fair (F) Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which should be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. All defects should be noted.
Poor (P) Sufficiently worn, does have the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should be noted. May be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
Related References: Alibris Quick Definition
Standard for grading the condition of Vinyl and CD
Goldmine~ Antique Trader
The following is probably the closest thing there currently is to a commonly accepted definition for the grading of condition of vinyl albums and their covers.
Unfortunately, this standard is not used universally by all GEMM sellers. A `VG` for one seller might only be a "G" graded by another seller`s standards. Be sure to look at a seller`s individual "grading" policies if the precise condition of an item is of concern.
SS- Still Sealed M- Mint Minus / EX+ Excellent Plus or M Mint
Never opened. Flawless, with no damage whatsoever.
Has been opened, but is still flawless with no damage whatsoever.
Vinyl & CD: No visible marking / scuffing / scratches & plays perfectly.VG+ Very Good Plus / EX
CD: ("VG+" grade not used. "EX" or "VG" used instead.)
Vinyl: May have scuff marks and signs of some wear but will still play almost perfectly throughout, with only "barely detectable" crackles or pops. A slight noise at the begining is allowable, but the remainder must be nearly flawless. Definitely no scratches or gouges that a touch with a dry finger can feel.
Cover: May only have the slightest signs of normal wear.
"VG++" is sometimes used as an intermediate grade between VG+ and M-.
VG Very Good / EX-
The majority of saleable albums fall under this grade.
CD: Visible scratches but plays perfectly all the way through.
Vinyl: May crackle, pop or make other annoying noises, but only occasionally,never continuously, and not more loudly than the music being listened to
Cover: Normal used cover wear such as ring wear and split seams. If there is abnormal damage such as tears or markings, but the seller still feels that it qualifies as a "VG", the damage must be described in comments attached to the item.
"Good" actually means "trashed" in collector circles!
CD: one or more tracks skip.
Vinyl: May have continuous low level crackles, pops, etc... but not so loud as to make the music completely unlistenable or unenjoyable to the casual listener. Might also have "nasty little scratch" causing popping on one or two more songs, with the rest of record playing fine.
Cover: More than normal wear and tear.F Fair
i.e. Vinyl: Only one side playable
i.e. Only one or two songs on the whole album are playable.
By Dave Thompson
For all the confusion that surrounds accurately grading records, the system itself is relatively simple. American record dealers tend to work from the eight-point scale developed for use in Goldmine magazine (F+W Publications); in the U.K., the seven-point scale is now the accepted system. These scales are applicable to both vinyl and packaging, and many sellers will now grade both separately, particularly if there is some disparity between the two — a clean disc and a torn sleeve, for example.
Both of these scales are excellent guides. Where problems can arise is when transactions cross international boundaries, especially when a record falls outside of the most self-evident of grades.
To begin at the bottom, Poor (P) or, in the U.K., Bad (B), should leave nobody in any doubt. In a nutshell, the record is wrecked. The sleeve is tattered, if it is even present. The vinyl might be cracked or broken, it might be scratched or warped. It certainly will not play very well and, unless the record itself represents one of the world’s most fabulous rarities — say, a red vinyl pressing of the Hornets’ “I Can’t Believe,” a $20,000 disc if you care for such things — its value can only be measured in fractions of a cent.
Don’t let the seller try to sweet talk you, either. Every collector, finding a shot-to-hell Shangri-Las LP and asking why it’s still $50, has been informed that “if it wasn’t for the bullet holes, it’d be in mint condition.” And that’s true, especially if the bullet holes are indeed the only imperfection. But if the record won’t play, it’s a Frisbee. And some don’t even fulfill that function properly.
Mint (M), at the other end of the scale, means factory-fresh, unplayed — even unopened (still sealed). There will be no creases or ring wear on the cover (picture sleeve for 45s and EPs), no fingerprints on the vinyl, no spindle marks (light silvery lines) around the center hole. Any original extras, ranging from lyric sheets and posters to printed inner sleeves, will be present and pristine. There will be no indication at all that human hands have ever touched the record. And one will notice that very few experienced American dealers or price guides ever advertise their wares in this state, no matter how perfect they appear. Instead, Near Mint is the preferred term, simply because even unplayed, unopened records may well have some undetected defect. Mint, in America, implies “perfect.” Near Mint adds “as far as we can tell.”
British grading doesn’t make this same distinction. Mint still means exactly the same as it does in the U.S., but there is no safety net a few points down the grading scale to catch any unforeseen problems. Perhaps the British trust the dealer to make good any serious shortfall in the quality of the disc. Perhaps they understand that, once they break the seal and spin the record, it is no longer either unopened or unplayed. Or maybe they have simply come to terms with the fact that “Perfect” is just an old John Travolta movie. However they look at it, the system works for them. American buyers may not be so sure.
These are the extremes. On a numerical scale, a Mint record should score 100 (with Near Mint no less than 95), a Poor would barely scrape zero. What, however, of all the numbers in between — for it is there that the majority of records one finds on the second-hand/used circuit, be it internet, thrift store or record fair, will lie. And it’s there that controversy most likely rears its head.
There are four basic flaws to which vinyl is prone, most brought about through misuse of some sort: warping, dishing, scratching and breaking. The last of these is self-explanatory. If the record is broken, and that means anything from a minor crack on the edge to a huge chunk torn from the soul of the disc, then that’s the end of the story. It’s broken. Move along.
Warping, caused by exposure to excessive heat, is the term applied to records that, in the simplest terms, are no longer flat. Sometimes, the warp will gently bow the vinyl, so that when viewed edge-on, it takes on a pronounced wave. In more extreme cases, just one area of the record will be buckled, while the remainder of the disc is unharmed.
Dishing is similar to warping but this time, when viewed edge-on, the record takes on the appearance of a bowl. Again, the effect can be minimal and may not affect the sound quality. But it may.
Scratches are more problematic. Every grade below Near Mint makes some allowance for wear and tear. The question is, how much wear and tear can one expect for any stated state? Some scratches are so light as to barely touch the vinyl — “surface marks,” as they are commonly called, can be caused by the record coming into contact with absolutely anything,
including the stylus that is playing it or even its own packaging. However, as surface marks lie across the surface of the record, and do not cut into the grooves where the music itself is stored, they will not affect the sound in the slightest.
The American Very Good Plus (VG+) and British Excellent (Ex) imply a record that, while showing some signs of use, was also clearly the property of a very careful owner. This is the province of the surface marks and similar light scuffs which do not interfere with the play, but may be considered unsightly; a barely noticeable warp or dish might also creep into this grade if no other damage is in evidence. Spindle marks will be minimal and the spindle hole will still be tight.
So-called “light scratches” are those that have cut into the groove and are responsible for occasional, and very brief, sequences of light clicks as a record is playing. Clicking, however, is all that they will do. Medium scratches are those that actively interfere with the music, without actually causing the needle to skip or stick. They can be felt by running a fingertip over the surface of the record (make sure it’s a clean tip, though, or you’ll just add to the problem). On both sides of the ocean, the grade Very Good (VG) allows these scratches to intrude into the listening experience, together with further deterioration (but still no loss or significant damage) in the state of the packaging.
Other accepted VG ailments include surface noise evident during quiet passages. Should the record have belonged to somebody who regularly played certain cuts, there may be some minor clicking at the beginning and end of each one, caused by the needle having been placed less than delicately down on the vinyl. In extreme cases, this can also affect (again, without skipping or sticking) the outro of the preceding cut and/or the intro of the next. However, while a VG record will suffer from some of these faults, it should not suffer from them all. Two or three is more than enough — any more and a serious reappraisal is called for. Most U.S. price guides regard VG as the lowest grade worth valuing.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the grade Good describes records which have patently been played a few times too often. Groove wear will be evident in the loss of the shiny black glow that a better conditioned disc should retain. Label and sleeve alike will be tatty — stained, torn, defaced. Upon playing, the record will not sound as sharp as it once did, surface noise will be audible throughout, and the scratches will be louder, too. The record will still be playable without skipping or sticking, but it’s a sorry sight to behold regardless. The wholly unnecessary American grade of Good Plus (G+) is differentiated as not having quite as many defects as a mere Good.
The lowest grade in which a record is actually playable is the American Fair (F), which equates to the British Poor (P). In this state, the deepest scratches come into play, those that not only cut through the grooves, but also force the needle to follow them, leading to the dreaded skips and jumps. Or maybe they displace one of the groove walls, shifting it into the path of the needle, thus causing it to become stuck. (Dirt, hair, grease and a million other foreign bodies can also cause this.) Or maybe they do both and really give you your waste-of-money’s worth. The sleeve may still be intact, but it just as likely may not; and if there was a lyric sheet or similar included, it long ago went walkabout.
Basically, unless we are again discussing some fabulous rarity, records in this condition are as worthless as those graded even more disparagingly, and the only reason they are even offered up for sale is because modern society frowns so fiercely on simply giving rubbish away. One man’s meat and all that. Likewise, there are few worthwhile reasons for even wanting to purchase a record in this state — unless, perhaps, you really hate the song and want to watch it suffer. In which case, are you sure you even need to know about grading?