By Susan Leak
You may know Susan better from her online alter ego of the Renagade, which she also Tweets under. ... about the artists themselves over on the Examiner.com where she holds the post of Birmingham Music Examiner. (More about the Renagade below.)
Remember when everyone had a record player? And a stack of 45’s and LPs to play on it? Well those days are quickly coming back. Many are discovering or rediscovering the quality sound that only vinyl can give. Places like Musiciansfriend, and buy.com are selling turntables and brand new and good quality used vinyl is abundant. Many of you may even still have that stack of vinyl that gave you such pleasure, and have thought about adding some to your collection. But how can you spot the “good” ones and where can you find them?
You can find them everywhere! Flea markets, yard sales, thrift shops are great places to look. When you find one that you like, take out the vinyl. Look at it from every angle. Slight scuffs, and a very light scratch or two should not affect the sound. Avoid those that have scratches you can feel with your fingernail, lots of scuffing, are warped, or have a worn out center hole. This can and will affect the play.
I recommend looking at the record in bright light--sunlight is good. Bring a soft cloth with you for dusting off the surface and a mini flashlight to view under strong light when indoors where the lighting may not be the best. Remember it’s the vinyl that is being played, not the cover, although a good cover with strong colors, no rips, tears, writing can increase the value.
When you go looking for Vinyl, you will notice some sellers grade them. Now a lot of sellers have come up with their own system, but the only true standard is Goldmine.
The Goldmine Standard is as follows:
Absolutely perfect in every way. Certainly never been played, possibly even still sealed. Should be used sparingly as a grade, If at all.
Near Mint (NM or M-)
A nearly perfect record. 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 almost invisible ring wear or other signs of slight handling.
An LP cover should have no creases, folds, seam splits or other noticeable similar defects. No cut-out holes, either. And of course, the same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves and the like.
Basically, an LP in near mint condition looks as if you just got it home from a new record store and removed the shrink wrap.
Near Mint is the highest price listed in all Goldmine price guides. Anything that exceeds this grade, in the opinion of both buyer and seller, is worth significantly more than the highest Goldmine book value.
Very Good Plus (VG+)
A Very Good Plus record will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
Record surfaces may show some signs of wear and may have slight scuffs or very light scratches that don't affect one's listening experiences. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are "OK".
The label may have some ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable. The center hole will not have been misshapen by repeated play.
Picture sleeves and LP inner sleeves will have some slight wear, lightly turned up corners, or a slight seam split. An LP cover may have slight signs of wear also and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation or corner indicating it was taken out of print and sold at a discount.
In general, if not for a couple things wrong with it, this would be Near Mint. All but the most mint-crazy collectors will find a Very Good Plus record highly acceptable.
Very Good (VG)
Many of the defects found in a VG+ record will be more pronounced in a VG disc. 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, only two or three of them.
Goldmine price guides including multiple values will list Very Good as the lowest price. This, not the Near Mint price, should be your guide when determining how much a record is worth, as that is the price a dealer will normally pay you for a Near Mint record.
Good (G), Good Plus (G+)
Good does not necessarily mean Bad! A record in Good or Good Plus condition can be put onto a turntable and will play through without skipping. But it will have significant surface noise and scratches and visible groove wear (on a styrene record, the groove will be starting to turn white).
A cover or sleeve will have seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine. Tape, writing, ring wear or other defects will start to overwhelm the object.
If it's a common item you'll probably find another copy in better shape eventually. Pass it up. But if it's something you have been seeking for years and the price is right, get it...but keep looking to upgrade.
Poor (P), Fair (F)
The record is cracked, badly warped, and won't play through without skipping or repeating. The picture sleeve is water damaged, split on all three seams and heavily marred by wear and writing. The LP cover barely keeps the LP inside it. Inner sleeves are fully seam split, crinkled, and written upon. AVOID These!
OK, you would rather shop online. Very good choice in today’s economy! There are many places to browse for your favorites here: eBay, Gemm, Amazon, and Bonanzle just to name a few!
But how can you judge if the bargain you found will play good? Personally, I avoid the listings that are vague. Look for listings that are complete, have pictures of the vinyl, and have the grade in it. Also see if they play grade them. Some sellers only grade visually, others state they play grade but only spot play the sections they feel might give trouble. Try to find sellers that play the entire record and list the mars seen and heard. And I shy away from those who have their own grading system that varies greatly from the Goldmine Standard. If you still have doubts, on how they grade, ASK!
Like collecting anything, collect what you like, research your items, and get yourself a book or two on the subject. Music is timeless, and spinning a record or two is a great way to relax after a hard day. Not to mention that vinyl is becoming a red hot collectible!
About Susan Leak, continued:
If you're in the Fort Payne, Alabama area and having a party then be sure to check out 2Wolves Music & Audio which provides music and sound for parties, weddings, dances, and more (The 2nd Wolf being Susan's husband, Steve). Finally, Susan shares her perspective on e-commerce over at her blog, Rants, Raves, and Renagade, and active site with many followers.
This is the first guest post on the VintageMeld. Huge thanks to the Renagade for answering my request. Hope you enjoyed it!