Grading 78 RPM Records by Nicolas Black (courtesy of the 78rpm Collector’s Community)

Grading 78rpm Records


Members on the 78rpm Collectors’ Community get asked many times by newbies, how do you rate and grade 78rpm records? I thought I’d put together this quick and simple guide to help new members and visitors grade 78rpms records.

There are currently a few different grading systems commonly used by record collectors. This article aims to outline three different grading systems. Most sellers of 78rpm records use what is commonly referred to as the ‘Goldmark’ standard for grading 78rpms records. It is used in many collecting circles and has become over time, the industry standard for describing the condition of a recording and it’s associated cover.

The Goldmark standard uses six grading levels that describe the condition of a record. This  condition refers to the overall ‘presentation’ of a record and the quality of its playback. The grading can also describe the condition of a record’s cover, sleeve or album. Each grading is  self-explainatory.

The Goldmark Standard

Mint (M)
The record – should be in new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality.
The Cover – should be in perfect condition along with any extra items.

Excellent (Ex)
The record – signs of having been played but displays minimal deterioration in sound quality.
The Cover – may have slight wear or creasing.

Very Good (Vg)
The record – played many times. Surface marks and light scratches evident but no major deterioration of sound quality.
The Cover – normal wear and tear without major defects.

Good (G)
The record – noticeable deterioration of sound quality due to playing. Some distortion/scratches.
The Cover – suffering from folding, scuffing of edges, spine splits and discolouration.

Fair (F)
The record – still just playable but with considerable surface noise and occasional jump.
The Cover – may be torn, defaced or stained.

Poor (P)
The record – too scratched to play properly with bad surface noise.
The Cover – badly damaged.

Bad (B)
The record – unplayable or broken. Useful only as a collectors item.
The Cover – disintegrating.

Another well-respected grading system used by many collectors’ is for a better term, the ‘Nauck’ grading system. This system is used by the Nauck 78rpm auction list and outlines the condition of a recording using an eight point grading system. The grading ranges from ‘M’ for mint, to ‘P’ – possibly unplayable. Note that this grading system is usually done visually. In some cases, double pluses and minuses are used when needed to more accurately describe a record’s condition.

‘Nauck’s’ Grading Standard
M – Just this side of mint.
E+ A choice copy with no wear whatsoever.
E Excellent. Virtually no trace of groove wear with only
minimal traces of use and handling.
E- An above average record with a slight degree of groove wear,
but not enough to seriously detract from its audio quality.
V+ Obviously well played, but still enjoyable. Noticeable
graying in the grooves.
V Very well worn, but listenable. Expect the surface
noise to be significant. There may be some stressed grooves.
V- Wiped out. Played with the right equipment, however, you may still
derive a certain degree of pleasure from a record in this condition.
P Possibly unplayable.

A third grading system in use is similar to the ‘Nauck’ system although it often includes a seperate category of ‘album cover’ condition.

Record Grading System


Usually records are visually graded. Visual grading is determined as follows:

MINT CONDITION (M): Truly “As New”, as it was when it left the factory. No scratches, scuffs, flaws, defects, marks or other indications of being handled or played. Records that are still sealed in their original factory wrapping are considered to be in this category.

NEAR MINT (NM): The surface is virtually flawless, bright and shiny, still no scuffs or scratches. May have been played, though very sparingly. The disc will play with no audible noise. The label is bright, clean and unmarked.

EXCELLENT (EXC): May have 1-4 very minor, barely visible scuffs (such as from brushing of a fingernail or contact with the inner sleeve), possibly a hairline scratch or two; nothing that is obvious or would be expected to affect play. Surface is bright, label is clean and unmarked.

VERY GOOD (VG): Some visible surface wear, such as minor scratches or scuffs. Surface will still have luster. Labels may have minor imperfections (small stickers or initials, etc.) but otherwise clean.

GOOD (G): Surface will have noticeable scratches or scuffs that would likely cause surface noise but do not overpower the music. There will be no skips. SUrface may appear slightly dull and grayish. Labels may have small tears, tape marks, larger writing, etc., but still easily legible. There may be minor wear at the spindle hole.

FAIR (F): Well-played, dull, grayish record surface with deeper scratches and wear causing distracting surface noise (hisses, pops, cracks, etc.). The record will still play through without any skips. Labels may be defaced or damaged.


MINT CONDITION (M): Absolutely flawless; no corner dings, marks, tears, dents, fading, discoloration, impressions from the disc, or other flaws.

NEAR MINT (NM): Very minor signs of wear or a slight hint of cover impressions; none that interfere with the integrity of the Artwork.

EXCELLENT (EXC): Minor disc impression (“ring wear”), or slight corner creases. No wrinkles, puckers, seam splits or writing on the cover. Artwork is clean and unworn and there is no ink wear.

VERY GOOD (VG): Cover is clean but may have minor writing or marks and may show slight wear. There may be just the start of ring wear, where the disc has created a raised area on the cover that resulted in the ink wearing off the paper. There may be slight discoloration or staining, minor seam wear, but no splits or tears. Corners may have small creases, mild fraying or light bumps.

GOOD (G): Covers are worn and used. Seams may be starting to split or may have been unobtrusively repaired with clear tape. There is moderate ring wear, but the artwork is still attractive. There may be yellowing or discoloration and there may be larger writing, labels, or marks. Corners may have damage or creases and there may be scratches or gouges that otherwise damage the artwork.

FAIR (F): Several (but not all) of the following flaws will apply: Seam splits, large marker writing, major seam splits, significant ring wear, damaged corners, tears, cuts, gouges, masking or other tape seam repairs, or other flaws and damage.







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