M = Mint. Absolutely perfect in every way--has never been played and record is in truly excellent condition. No tears or seam splits. Record may still have sleeve dust. Label stickers, writing, fading, wrinkling, color wear all detract from an M grading.
NM = Near Mint. A nearly perfect record. Some dealers use M- = Mint Minus. The record shows 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.
VG+ = Very Good plus. 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. The record should have a only a minimum amount of foreign or surface noise which does not detract from the recorded sound. 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 VG+ record may show some label wear, but it would be minimal. The album cover may have slight signs of wear and may be marred by a cut-out hole, indentation or corner cut. The record will have most of it's original shine.
VG = Very Good. 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.
G = Good. 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 record in "Good" condition shows signs of wear. There may be scratches, and it may be obvious the record was never cared for. Even so, it plays good enough to enjoy. A album cover will have seam splits, especially at the bottom or on the spine and will also have tape, writing, ring wear or other defects.
Grading notation is album cover/record.
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