These are absolutely perfect in every way. Often rumored but rarely seen, Mint should never be used as a grade unless more than one person agrees that the record or sleeve truly is in this condition.
NEAR MINT (NM)
A good description of a NM record is “it looks like it just came from a retail store and it was opened for the first time.” In other words, it’s nearly perfect.
Near mint records are shiny and free of visible defects. No writing, stickers, other markings or spindle marks appear on the label. No major factory defects are present; a record and label obviously pressed off center is not Near Mint.
If played, an NM record will do so without surface noise. Near Mint records don’t have to be “never played”; a record used on an excellent turntable can remain NM after many plays if the disc is properly cared for.
NM covers have no creases, ring wear or seam splits of any kind.
A good description of a M- Record is “except for a couple of minor things, this would be Near Mint.”
Most collectors, especially those who want to play their records, will be happy with a M- record, especially if it is toward the high end of the grade.
M- records may show some slight signs of wear, including light scuffs or very light scratches that do not affect the listening experience. Slight warps that don’t affect the sound are OK. Minor signs of handling are OK, too, such as telltale marks around the center hole, so long as repeated playing has not misshapen the hole. There may be some very light ring wear or discoloration, but it should be barely noticeable.
M- Covers should have only minor wear. A M- cover might have some very minor seam wear or a split (less than one inch long) at the bottom, the most vulnerable location. Also, M- cover may have some defacing, such as a cut-out marking. Covers with cut-out markings can never be considered Near Mint.
VERY GOOD PLUS (VG+)
VG+ Records have more obvious flaws than their counterparts in better shape. They lack most of the original gloss found on factory-fresh records. Groove wear is evident on sight, as are light scratches deep enough to feel with a fingernail.
When played, a VG+ record has surface noise, and some scratches may be audible, especially in soft passages and during a song’s intro and ending. But the noise won’t overpower the music otherwise. Minor writing, tape or a sticker can detract from the label. They remain a fine listening experience, just not the same as if it were in better shape.
VG+ covers will have many signs on human handling. Ring wear in the middle or along the edges of the cover, where the edge of a record would reside, is obvious; it may appear on all three sides, thought it won’t be obvious upon looking. Someone might have written on it or stamped a price tag on it, too.
VERY GOOD (VG)
The record still plays through without skipping, so it can serve as filler until something better comes along. But it has significant surface noise and groove wear. The label is worn and exhibits significant ring wear, heavy writing or obvious damage caused by trying remove tape or stickers and failing miserably.
A VG+ cover has heavy ring wear, has seam splits obvious on sight and may have even heavier writing, such as huge radio station letters written across the front to deter theft.
STILL SEALED (SS)
Still in its shrink wrap from the manufacturer.
STILL SEALED/SHOP WORN (SS/SW)
Still in its shrink wrap from the manufacturer, but with wear on the cover from a long shelf life. Often with ring wear and loose shrink.