Below are the Goldmine grading guidelines and standards that I use (quoted without permission, yikes don't shoot, I bought several of your books!). Let me summarize any deviations from Goldmine standards that I use - The highest grade I use is Near Mint (NM) and those are pretty much perfect. I use the VG++ (Very Good plus plus) to indicate a record that appears mostly like new but still has some small flaw. To me, a Very Good Plus (VG+) is a record that has been well taken care of but shows some scuffs and light scratches. How many? Got me! Some dealers count the scratches and base their grade on that. I generally go more by the seat of my pants and figure that if I play it and it doesn't affect the play it's okay. VG is generally the lowest grade I deal in. I consider them to be good "Players". They may have quite a few scuffs and scratches but should play fine except for groove noise and maybe an occasional "tic" - No skips, loud pops or whatever but they won't satisfy a CD afficianado! I also sometimes designate records as VG(+?) meaning I think it's a good VG and possibly a VG+ but that it may or may not meet that criteria to you!
One important note, I try to grade to these Goldmine guides as best as I can understand and apply them. This gives us both a written standard to go by rather than having to guess. But.... it also means that I don't issue refunds over differences of opinion in grading i.e. "That's not MY idea of a VG record!" - I don't know what your standards are and, as such, can't grade to them. I guarantee that items I sell will meet my description, nothing more or less, although, I will do my best to make sure that you are happy with your purchase.
Now to the experts!
How to grade. Look at everything about a record - - its playing surface, its label, its edges -- under a strong light. Then, based on your overall impression, give it a grade based on the following criteria:
Mint (M): Absolutely perfect in every way -- certainly never played, possibly even still sealed.
Near Mint (NM or M-): A nearly perfect record. The record should show no obvious signs of wear. An LP jacket should have no creases, folds, seam splits or any other noticeable similar defect. 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.
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 slight signs of wear and may have slight scuffs or very light scratches that don't affect one's listening experience. Slight warps that do not affect the sound are OK. The label may have some nng 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 ring wear, lightly turned-up corners, or a slight seam split. An LP jacket may have slight signs of wear also and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation or cut corner indicating it was taken out of print and sold at a discount. In general, if not for a couple minor 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. A synonym used by some collectors and dealers for "Very Good Plus" is "Excellent."
Very Good (VG): Generally worth 25 percent of the Near Mint value. Many of the defects found in a VG+ record wifl 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 will 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.
Good (G), Good Plus (G+): 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). Ajacket 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): Generally worth 0-5 percent 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 jacket barely keeps the LP inside it. Inner sleeves are fully seam split, crinkled, and written upon.
Some common abbreviations:
RW - Ring Wear (circular impression on the record jacket caused by the record inside)
EW - Edge Wear (wear on the edges of the jacket)
CC - Cut Corner of jacket
GF - GateFold cover
OC - On Cover
OBC - On Back Cover