Grading Vinyl

Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friend...

Image by Geoff_B via Flickr


I see a lot of questions regarding how to grade a vinyl record. In order to show the process in a way that makes for easy reading I am going to show how I have graded one particular listing of mine.

Ok let’s use Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends. Why this in particular? Well because it’s a little bit quirky and this will show more things to check.


Ok let’s do this!!!

  1. FIrst thing is the obvious really. Who is the artist? What is the title? What record label was it recorded or issued on? What is the year of release? What country does this particular release relate to? Now once you’ve got all that you have your top line of information. e.g. JOE COCKER – WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS – REGAL ZONOPHONE – 1969 – UNITED KINGDOM.
  2. Information about the sleeve. Is it a single or gatefold sleeve? Laminated? Plain? Textured? Flipback? Printed by?  So now we can give it a little more detail e.g. SINGLE – LAMINATED – FLIPBACK – PRINTED BY GARROD & LOFTHOUSE.
  3. Now comes the often argued and confusing one. “CONDITION” or “GRADING”. So what should you be looking at? Well, does it look brand new? Have any of the edges worn? (Commonly referred to as storage wear). Does it look slightly grubby, has the white faded, has it greyed in places? (Age Discolouration). Are there any tears or rips? Any stickers obscuring the album sleeve? Has the record itself started to show through the sleeve? (ringing). Once you have noted all this I recommend that you look at record collectors magazine vinyl grading guide here .
  4. Ok, now you’ve decided on the condition of your main sleeve, then you have to look at the inner sleeve and any additional contents and grade them accordingly. So any extras such as lyric sheets, posters, postcards etc. Now be aware that the addition of any relevant posters, postcards, etc. can sometimes have an impact on the value of the album. So this is where you need to do a bit of research and find out whether that old Led Zep album of yours should have had an insert with it. Was it a misprint ? Is it worth more because of this? If you’re really lucky, has your poster or some part of the album been signed and how are you going to prove it’s genuine to a potential buyer?
  5. Fed up yet? No? Labels!!! Yep you have to check the condition of the labels with the additional search for spindle marks, are they bad, negligible? Is it the original label? Does it indicate a first press? Are the song titles misprinted in any way, are the songs listed actually the songs? Can I just say at this point? RESEARCH!! It’s the all important thing with grading. I’ll mention it again later 🙂
  6. VINYL CONDITION!!! The all important question is what does it play like? Is the thing warped??? Holes? Chocolate? Toffee? Remnants of a Lucozade spill? Pops, crackles, jumps, ticks? Visible scratches ? Hairline scratches or deep? All in all, with this one just get yourself a viyl record player and listen to the record. Do not sell anything without listening to it unless it’s sealed? You might say but everything about it is visibly perfect. Well that’s great but I still have an immaculate copy of Ziggy Stardust where even the vinyl looks new and yet somehow….it’s barely audible above the crackling and spitting…I have no idea why and trust me I have cleaned it bigtime but to no avail. So play your vinyl!!!
  7. Matrix numbers and dead wax inscriptions. These are the absolute best proof you will have of the authenticity of a particular release. So get your glasses on and give em a wipe and look for the matrix eg Y-CARX 55-2 on one side and Y-CARX 56-2 on the other (matrix numbers more commonly look a little like this 664 1010 A//1). These will give you a good idea of where the item ranks for that particular release. Well where do I find that out you ask? Did I mention RESEARCH!! Great but what’s the funny squiggle saying “smoke me a kipper I’ll be back before breakfast” ,well that’s the dead wax inscription. Sounds almost holy doesn’t it? Except it isn’t, well rarely anyway, it’s another way of defining the exact vinyl cop you have. Oh!! Don’t forget the mother stampers!! These are almost always impossible to see and give you the mother of all migraines and look somethin like G1/G1. And to make it even more difficult they put the G one side of the disc and the 1 the other side. By the way, the dead wax is used to describe the section of vinyl where the songs have finished and the pick up arm runs off to the spindle before lifting up and returning to the holding position. No you can’t float in it 🙂
  8. Quirks, Demos, Strangeness and Charm. Yup I have gone round the twist. Well nearly but seriously these can add value to your vinyl. You are looking for demo copies that were not released to the general public, they may have a sticker and a different wording on the label such as my Joe Cocker vinyl, you might have a vinyl that you can’t find a price for anywhere and think it’s worthless but it might be because you’re the only person in the galaxy who has it…so until Alpha Centauri open up an ebay you’re safe!!!! People will pay money for strange stuff that shouldn’t be there but somehow is. So don’t throw away any old tickets, receipts, stickers, photos or handwritten notes that look like they’ve been writ while the bloke has been skydiving. Charm. Do not underestimate charm, I bought many an old album because I liked the artwork or it had a unique styling to it. Ignore charm at your peril. Lot of information to find? Oh yeah …RESEARCH!!
  9. Now you have all the information and you know everything about this piece of plastic that has almost driven you insane and all you have to do is look it up online or buy a book and it will tell you exactly how much you should sell it for? Right?…Wrong!! The RARE RECORD PRICE GUIDE is an excellent addition to any vinyl dealer’s arsenal (gz blues fans btw 🙂 ), but read the title…..GUIDE…. because that is exactly what it is. A piece of vinyl is worth exactly what someone wants to pay for it. For example I have sold Exercises by Nazareth for £75 and a better copy of it for £35, the rare record price guide lists it at £25. Get my drift? So what’s the answer? Well a decent guide for a start, and after that?…experience…pain….joy….acumen…knowledge…luck…and the rest
  10. EPILOGUE…god I love that word. So there you have it. It’s not easy to deal and everyone thinks it is. They are collectables and are traded constantly, values rise and fall, and if you stock too much of the wrong stuff and try to sell it at the wrong time you won’t get bailed out by the UK government…although god knows there’s no harm in asking. But if you do everything right and treat your customers not just right but exceptionally then coupled with RESEARCH (last time I promise), you may just make it as a dealer.
  11. P.S. If you’re not sure about this or have questions or just want to add to this then let me know. It’s a blog..that’s what it’s here for 🙂 Contact or leave a message anytime I’m only to happy to help. Gotta love you and leave you now but don’t forget…
  12. RESEARCH!! Ok I lied….cheers Vinyl



record-label of vinyl-record from Jutta Hipp o...

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