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78 rpm Record Grading

The accurate grading of a record or book is of paramount importance (pardon the pun!). A record in V condition can be worth less than a tenth of the value of the same item in E+ condition, so grading is the first consideration when buying or selling a record.

The VJM Record Grading System is an internationally-used and recognised system for grading both 78s and LPs. It is used by virtually all jazz, blues, personality and most pre-war record dealers and collectors alike, with an easily understood sequence of letters to show grades and a system of abbreviations to show faults and damage. The first grading system to be adopted by jazz record collectors was devised by the publishers of Record Changer magazine in the 1940s, and the system now known as the VJM Grading System is a refined and more accurate version of the former, introduced in the early 1950s. There are other systems, notably the one devised by the sound restorer John R. T. Davies in the 1960s, known as the Davies Grading System. This utilises two numbers, one for wear and one for scratches and surface damage and, whilst it is generally more accurate than other systems, its unwieldiness has prevented it from being universally adopted and is now, to all intents and purposes, obsolete.

The VJM Record Grading System

N (78) M (LP). As new and unplayed (there are virtually no 78s that can categorically be claimed to be unplayed).

N- (78) M- (LP). Nearly Mint, but has been played. No visible signs of wear or damage.

E+ (78) VG+ (LP). Plays like new, with very, very few signs of handling, such as tiny scuffs from being slipped in and out of jackets.

E (78) VG (LP). Still very shiny, near new looking, with no visible signs of wear, but a few inaudible scuffs and scratches.

E- (78) VG- (LP). Still shiny but without the lustre of a new record, few light scratches.  LP: Some wear, scratches and scuffs, but no skipped or repeat grooves.

V+ (78) G+ LP. V+ is an average condition 78 in which scuffs and general use has dulled the finish somewhat. Wear is moderate but playing is generally free from distortion. Surface noise not overly pronounced. LP: Below average with scuffs and scratches on fewer than half the tracks. No skips or repeat grooves.

V (78) G (LP). Moderate, even wear throughout, but still very playable. Surface noise and scratches audible but not intrusive.

V- (78) G- (LP). Quite playable still, but distortion and heavy greying in loud passages. Music remains loud in most passages. Surface noise and scratches well below music level. LP: Lowest Grade. Audible scratches, etc. on more than half the tracks. Listening uncomfortable.

G+ (78). Grey throughout but still serviceable. Music begins to sound muffled. Heavy scratches.

G (78). Quite seriously worn and scratched, but music level is still higher than surface noise.

G- (78). Music still prominent, but wear and scratch damage extensive.

F (78). Most of music remains audible over surface noise, but listening now uncomfortable.

P (78). Unplayable.

NB: Damage to labels and jackets (LP) should be noted whenever present.

Abbreviations: sfc = surface; lbl = label; nap = not affecting play; scr/scrs = scratch/scratches; lc = lamination crack; cr = crack; hlc/hc = hairline crack; wol = writing on label; sol = sticker on label; fade = faded label; gr/grs = groove/grooves; eb = edge bite; ec = edge chip; ef = edge flake; rc = rim chip; cvr = cover; s = stereo; rf = rough; aud/inaud = audible/inaudible. SB=Sunburst (Decca). DJ=Disc Jockey or Sample Copy. TT=Truetone label OKeh

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