Mint (M) Absolutely perfect in every way. Certainly never been played, possibly even still sealed.(More on still sealed under "Other Considerations"). 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+) Generally worth 50 percent of the Near Mint value. 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++): a very good++ record is quite a bit better in condition than a vg+ record…but not as good as a near mint / NM lp
Very Good (VG) 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.
With Still Sealed (SS) records, let the buyer beware! Unless it'a a U.S. pressing from the last 10-15 years or so. It's too easy to reseal one. Yes, 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 factory-sealed, so if you see them advertised as sealed, someone other than the manufacturer sealed them.
vg- / very good-
vg / very good
vg+ / very good+
vg++ / very good++
nm / near mint
m / mint - unplayed
s s / still sealed
dg / deep grooves
ri / reissue
lim.ed. / limited edition
foc / foldout cover - gatefold cover
sofc / sticker or stamp on front cover
sobc / sticker or stamp on back cover
wofc / writing on front cover
wobc / writing on back of cover
cut out / lp cover has been cut
cut corner / corner of cover cut off
punch hole / lp cover has been punched