Grading Guidelines - Books and Magazines

One thing we have learned over the years is that not everyone is familiar with collector grading systems.

When we first started on eBay, we listed our magazines and books with letter grading systems, after receiving a number of inquiries about what the letters meant, we changed the way we described the condition of those items in our listings.

While there are magazine collectors who understand letter grading, many magazine buyers aren’t magazine collectors, they are collectors of a specific person or subject, and are more interested in content than condition. Not that condition isn’t important to them, but it’s not the primary motivation for buying a particular magazine.

So, we decided to develop the following system to correspond with the collector grading scales.

Exceptional: Items listed as Exceptional, are just that. They will appear new and/or unused.

Excellent: Items listed as in Excellent condition could also carry a grading that ranges from Very Fine (VF) to Near Mint (NM). We understand there are many collectors who will shutter at the thought of that range, but it has worked well for us over the years.

When we list a magazine or book in Excellent condition, it will be an above average copy that is tightly bound with minimal defects on the cover and only some slight fading/yellowing on the pages inside. It will be complete with no missing pages.

Very Decent: Items listed as in Very Decent condition could also carry a grading that might range from Very Good (VG) to Fine (FN). If it is a magazine or book, it will be better than the average copy but not quite as crisp or clean as an item listed as Excellent. It will be tightly bound with no missing pages. There may be some noticeable fading/yellowing/discoloring of the pages inside, but this will not detract from the overall quality of the item. Any visible minor defects, such as rips, tears, creases etc. will be noted in the description.

Decent: Items listed in this condition are your average used items. Covers will be intact, but may be loose or have several wrinkles, creases, folds, etc. There could be much fading/yellowing/discoloration of the pages inside and there may be writing or tears inside as well. These kinds of defects will be noted in the description. Items listed as in Decent condition will be the equivalent of a Good (GD) or Fair+ (FR+) grading.

Fair: Items listed in Fair condition are just that, fair. A magazine or book listed in Fair condition will have all of its pages (unless noted) but the cover or inside pages may be ripped or torn, and there will be obvious defects both inside and out. Covers may be loose or unattached. Items listed in Fair condition will usually carry a lower opening price than items listed in Decent to Excellent condition.

As a general policy, the only time we will list an item that is in Fair condition is if it is rare or might be of particular interest to a collector.

Again, the basic rule is this - if you are concerned about condition, always ask questions prior to bidding.

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Grading Guidelines - Records, CD's, DVD's, Tapes

The following is the grading system first developed by Goldmine Records. Virtually all methods currently in use for the grading of recorded music, is based in some way, shape, or form, on this system.

Since we don't always have the time, or in some instances, (8-track tapes, 78 rpm records) the equipment, we will determine the condition of an item based on visual grading. While all of our own records have been played, we haven't had our turntable hooked up in years!

The time required to grade an item based on playing it is not practical for most dealers, and since it is rare that buyers get the chance to listen to a record purchased online, we believe visual grading is acceptable.We will always note an item as 'Graded Visually' when that is the case. Again, if you have questions concerning the condition of an item, please contact us prior to bidding.

(M) - Mint: Absolutely perfect in every way. Certainly never been played, or used and possibly is a still sealed (s/s) item.

(NM) - Near Mint: Nearly perfect. The item should show no obvious signs of wear and have no more than the most minor defects caused by careful handling. An item might be graded NM+ (Near Mint Plus) or NM- (Near Mint Minus)based on overall condition and appearance. Many record dealers won't give a record a higher grade than NM+ implying that no record is ever truly perfect. (See our comments above regarding Mint condition.)

(VG +/-) Very Good Plus or Minus: Generally worth about 50 percent of the Near Mint value. An item could be graded VG + (plus) or VG - (minus) depending on overall condition.

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.

(VG) - Very Good: Generally worth 25 percent of Near Mint value. 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 with more than one price 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.

(G) - Good: A Good Plus (G+) record is generally worth 10-15 percent of the Near Mint value. Good does not 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 something you have been seeking for years, and the price is right, get it...but keep looking to upgrade.

(P) - Poor: A poor, or Fair (F) record is usually worth 5 percent or less of the Near Mint price. 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. Except for impossibly rare records otherwise unattainable, records in this condition should be considered as worthless, and should only be purchased as part of a lot or large collection.

(S/S) - Still Sealed: Still sealed records are a rare commodity these days. They typically come from collectors who purchased more than one copy or from close-out sales. Many still sealed albums are "cut-outs" and will have some type of marking/defect on the cover (cut corners, discount price stickers, bb holes, etc.). We make every attempt to note these alterations in the description and they are usually obvious in the photos of the item. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding still sealed items. Please note: We will not open still sealed items to check labels or dates.

With Still Sealed (S/S) records, let the buyer beware!

Unless it's a U.S. pressing from the last 40 years or so, it's too easy to reseal one. Some legitimately never-opened LP's from the 1960's still exist. But if you're looking for a specific pressing, the only way you can know for sure is to open the record.

Also, European Imports are not usually factory-sealed, so if you see them advertised as sealed, someone other than the manufacturer has probably sealed them. Some record stores and distributors sealed imports prior to sale to keep the records from being removed from the sleeve.

Most dealers give a separate grade to the record and it's sleeve or cover. In an ad, a record's grade is listed first, followed by that of the sleeve or the cover.



Portions of this article - © 1997 Goldmine Magazine

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Grading Guidelines - Comic Books

As we stated earlier, one collector's NM is another one's VG.

This is especially true with comic collectors.

Comic book collectors are generally more critical when it comes to condition than record collectors. That rock and roll attitude that says "who gives a f**k if the B side skips, the A side rocks!" doesn't carry over into the comic world. Comic book collectors tend to think more in terms of art than attitude. The grading system of (+) plus and (-) minus becomes even more important when it comes to grading comic books.

Just like in the record collecting world, there is a standard of grading that is commonly recognized and used by comic collectors. For years it was the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Even though Overstreet has been acquired by Gemstone Publishing, the Overstreet grading system is still used by most collectors and dealers.

(M) - Mint: Perfect in every way. Only the most subtle bindery or printing defects are allowed. Cover is flat with no surface wear. Cover inks are bright with high reflectivity and minimal fading. Covers are cut square and sharp. Staples are generally centered, clean with no rust. Cover is generally well centered and firmly secured to interior pages. Paper is supple and fresh. Spine is tight and flat. See our earlier comments regarding Mint condition.

(NM) - Near Mint: Nearly perfect with only minor imperfections allowed. This grade should have no corner or impact creases, stress marks should be almost invisible, and bindery tears must be less than 1/16 inch. A couple of very tiny color flecks, or combination of the above that keeps the book from being perfect, drops the book into this grade. Only the most subtle binding and/or printing defects allowed. Cover is flat with no surface wear. Cover inks are bright with high reflectivity and minimum of fading. Corners are cut square and sharp with ever so slight blunting permitted. Staples are generally centered, clean with no rust. Cover is well centered and firmly secured to interior pages. Paper is supple and like new. Spine is tight and flat . Based on any number of the above, a book could be graded (NM+) or (NM-).

(VF) - Very Fine: An excellent copy with outstanding eye appeal. Sharp, bright and clean with supple pages. Cover is relatively flat with almost no surface wear. Cover inks are generally bright with moderate to high reflectivity. Staples may show some discoloration. Spine may have a couple of almost insignificant transverse stress lines and is almost completely flat. A barely unnoticeable 1/4 inch crease is acceptable, if color is not broken. Pages and covers can be yellowish tannish (at the least, but not brown and will usually be off-white to white). Again, a book could be graded plus or minus, but at this level plus or minus doesn't have much impact on the value.

(FN) - Fine: An exceptional, above-average copy that shows minor wear but is still relatively flat and clean with no creasing or other serious defects. Eye appeal is somewhat reduced because of slight surface wear and possibly a very small defect such as a few very slight cross stress marks on spine. A fine condition comic book appears to have been read a few times and has been handled with moderate care. Compared to a VF, cover inks are beginning to show a significant reduction in reflectivity but is still a highly collectible and desirable book.

(VG) - Very Good: The average used comic book. A comic in this grade shows some wear, can have a reading or center crease or a rolled spine, but has not accumulated enough total defects to reduce eye appeal to the point that it is not a desirable copy. Some discoloration, fading and even minor soiling is allowed. As much as a 1/4" triangle can be missing out of the corner or edge. A missing square piece (1/8" by 1/8") is also acceptable. Store stamps, name stamps, arrival dates, initials, etc. have no effect on this grade. Cover and interior pages can have one or two minor tears and folds and the centerfold may be loose or detached. One staple can be loose, but the cover is not completely detached. Common bindery and printing defects do not affect grade. Pages and inside covers may be brown but not brittle. Tape should never be used for comic book repair, however many a VG condition comics have minor tape repair.

(GD) - Good: A comic graded G has all the pages and cover, although there may be small pieces missing inside; the largest piece allowed from front or back cover is a 1/2" triangle or a square 1/4" by 1/4". Books in this grade are commonly creased, scuffed, abraded and soiled, but completely readable. Often paper quality is low but not brittle. Cover reflectivity is low and in some cases completely absent. Most collectors consider this the lowest collectible grade because comic books in lesser condition are usually incomplete and/or brittle. This grade can have a moderate accumulation of defects but still maintains its basic structural integrity.

(FR) - Fair: A copy in this grade has all the pages and most of the covers, centerfold may be missing, if it does not affect the story, but price should be reduced; a book in this condition is soiled, ragged and unattractive. Creases and folds are prevalent and paper quality may be moderately low. Spine may be split up to 2/3 its entire length. Staples may be gone, and/or cover split up to 2/3 its length. Corners are commonly slightly rounded. If coupons are cut from front cover and/or back cover may and/or interior pages the book will fall into this grade. Up to1/12 of front cover may be missing . These books are mostly readable although soiling, staining, tears, markings or chunks missing may interfere with reading the complete story. Very often paper quality is low and may have slight brittleness around the edges but not in the central portion of the pages.

(PR) - Poor: Most comic books in this grade have been sufficiently degraded to the point that there is no longer any collector value. Copies in this grade typically have pages and/or approximately 1/3 or more of the front cover missing. They may have extremely severe stains, mildew or heavy cover abrasion to the point that cover inks are indistinct/absent. They have been defaced with paints, varnishes, glues, oil, indelible markers or dyes. Other defects often include severe rips, tears, folding and creasing. Another common defect in this grade is moderate to severe brittleness, often to the point that the comic book literally "fall apart" when examined.As with records, comics that are graded Good or Poor have no value for collectors and should only be considered if it is indeed a rare item.

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