A Few Choice Words on Album/LP Condition.
Ok, you like blunt, right? I am a mildly picky collector. I have known many picky bastards, I have known people absolutely insane with pickiness and I have known people who would play sandpaper and not blink. I think there's a balance to be struck here. For example, if I were to buy a $175 blue note, which I am not, it had better be stellar, and I'm going to expect that that album graded as Near Mint (NM or M-) or Very Good Plus (VG+) will be exactly that, or I'm expecting a full refund, including shipping.
We put the Fun in No Refunds!
However, most of what we have here, while most is at VG+ and above, several aren't, but they are affordable, which is why we're here in the first place. Take a very good look at those high resolution photos we uploaded for that $10 album. It's unlikely we're going to upload bad albums. I used to get crazy picky about finding the perfect version of stuff, hot stamps, misprints, but after you've had a jillion records, sometimes, you just want to spin the LP. That's where SRO Records comes in - most of our vinyl comes in the $10 to $25 variety.. we could probably charge some east coast prices for stuff, but that's kind of a dick move. Refunding via mailorder/online is a nightmare, as is tracking overseas, and not really happening here (flat out, not happening, but if you talked to us and plead your case, and something horrible slipped through, we might give you future credit). I guess in the end, you have to look at it like you're getting deals at a record convention, only there's just no way to truly try before you buy. In the end, we are reasonable people.
Read below the delightful basic overviews of how to visually inspect (and play grade) a record, then check the condition level summaries below to determine the condition of a vinyl record - I tend to grade on the very conservative, low side - it's very, very unlikely I would call something near mint, but it's possible? Even new albums I have had not sure I would call mint - some are just not that great of pressings. Really, unless it's sealed, it's likely VG+ at best. If we see something iffy, we're going to likely throw it on a turntable to make sure it plays all the way through, especially if it's something we deem as 'really good'..
Eventually, we're probably going to do a '$2 Album' page for average stuff, everything else will likely be at least VG, or there's really no point in posting it. I've heard albums that were unbelievably noisy, yet somehow played through.. $2 album? I typically wish I hadn't listened like that, so there's no point in putting it online.
Grading a vinyl record is inherently subjective, but knowing what to look for will help you accurately determine what condition a record is in. We're giving you pretty high resolution photos to look at, so be sure to give them a really good gander if you're picky about these types of things. To visually grade a record, inspect the sleeve and any inserts (lyric sheets, posters, etc.) for ring wear, discoloration, sticker residue and seam splits. You will also need to inspect the vinyl surface for scratches and other imperfections. Visually inspecting a record is best done under a bright light positioned close to the vinyl surface - but we're online; there's no way to 'play grade' an LP online, other than a good look. If it looks iffy, and looks like it might be too noisy for you.. pass on it, or drop us a line and ask about it, or ask for a different price! We're reasonable people. We're in this because we love music, not because we make truckloads of money, which is why we put the fun in No Refunds.
The sleeve and cover are absolutely perfect in every way. To qualify as Mint, the record must never have been played and is still sealed. Mint should be used sparingly as a grade, if at all. Note that a record can be sealed and not Mint. There could be sleeve discoloration, ring wear, or a vinyl warp from if guidelines on how to store vinyl were not followed. Being graded as Mint means the record was not playtested.
Near Mint (NM or M-)
A nearly perfect record. A Near Mint record has more than likely never been played, and the vinyl will play perfectly, with no imperfections during playback. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than this implying (perhaps correctly) that no record is ever truly perfect. The record should show no obvious signs of wear. A 45 RPM or EP sleeve should have no more than the most minor defects, such as any sign of slight handling. An LP cover should have no creases, folds, seam splits, cut-out holes, or other noticeable similar defects. The same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, etc.
Very Good Plus (VG+)
A Very Good Plus record 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, not affecting the actual playback. In theory, a VG+ record should sound the same as a Near Mint (NM) one. Vinyl surfaces may show some signs of wear and may have slight scuffs or very light scratches that don’t affect listening. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are okay.
The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable. Spindle marks may be present. Picture sleeves and inner sleeves will have some wear, slightly turned-up corners, or a small seam split. An LP cover may have sparse signs of wear and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation, or cut corner. In general, it plays perfectly, and if not for some minor aesthetic wear it would be Near Mint.
Very Good (VG)
Many of the defects found in a Very Good Plus record will be more pronounced in a Very Good item. 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 otherwise. Groove wear will start to be noticeable, as with light scratches (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound. Labels may be marred by writing, or have tape or stickers (or their residue) attached. The same will be true of picture sleeves or LP covers. However, it will not have all of these problems at the same time.
Good, Good Plus (G, G+)
A record in Good or Good Plus condition can be played through without skipping, but it will have significant surface noise, scratches, and visible groove wear. A cover or sleeve will have seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, ring wear, or other defects will be present. While the record will be playable without skipping, noticeable surface noise and “ticks” will almost certainly accompany the playback.
Poor, Fair (P, F)
The record is cracked, badly warped, and won’t play through without skipping or repeating. The picture sleeve could be water damaged, split on more than one seam and heavily marred by wear or writing. The LP cover barely keeps the LP inside it. Inner sleeves are fully split, crinkled, and written upon. Poor or Fair records are generally worth very little, if anything at all. We're not selling these, but we might sell the jacket to a collector? I don't know.. I have enough garbage around?