The Vinyl Records Collectors Guide (http://www.vinylrecords.ch/Vinyl/vin_grading.htm)
lists guidelines for "assessing the grading / condition of used records (based on Goldmine Grading for Records)." You can follow this link to find them or read them at the end of this post. (And thanks for all the great information on that site, guys!)
However, sometimes those conditions don't matter. It depends upon what you want to do with the record - and how much you paid for it!
If you are collecting as an investment, buying rare or obscure disks, or paying alot of money for them, then conditions matter - alot. But, if you are like me collecting records to listen to - and you are not overpaying for the albums, then you can be a little more flexible about your purchases.
Just realize that the 'book' values of the records in your collection are based upon excellent or near mint conditions, not lower.
When I find an interesting record in a dollar bin for a buck, I don't worry too much if the cover has some things wrong with it. How is the record inside? For a buck, if it is playable and I want to hear it, I'll buy it.
For instance, I have an original pressing of Stevie Wonder's wonderful 1968 album 'for Once In My Life.' The album inside is on the old yellow Tamla label and is in mint condition. Plays great and sounds wonderful. The album cover, on the other hand, has been damaged by moisture in the past and is peeling and faded. Would I like a mint copy of this, yes, please! But, I can still enjoy the imperfect copy that I have....for now.
My copy cost me less than a dollar and that is probably what it is 'worth.' I have found - but not bought - 'very good' copies of the same record selling on Ebay for $25 and that is probably what they are worth. Cover conditions matter - to their monetary value, but not to their playability.
On the other hand, think twice before you buy a record that has alot of surface damage on the disk itself. A few pops and scaratches are fine, but loud hiss will probably drive you crazy - no matter how clean the album cover looks!
Here are the Vinyl Records Collectors Guide's conditions guidelines:
MINT (M): Perfect! This record looks like it has just left the manufacturer, with NO flaws what so ever. It looks as though it had never been handled. No scuffs or scratches, blotches or stains. No stickers address labels, writing on the covers or labels. No tears or seam splits. No wear to the cover or record period! Age of the record has nothing to do with it.
NEAR MINT or NM, M- : this record appears virtually flawless A very minor scuff and very little else can appear on the vinyl. It should play without any noise over the flaw. The flaw is very hard to see. The cover looks as close to perfect with only minor signs of wear and or age. Minor impressions to the cover (due to the outer edge of the vinyl resting inside) may be acceptable, however the artwork is be as close to perfect as can be.
EXCELLENT or EX or VG++ : minor scuffs which are only slightly visible. There may be more than a few scuffs and NO Scratches COVER: Artwork is still as close to perfect as can be. Some impression to the cover (minor outer ring wear) but no ink wear! Some slight creases to the corners, but not wrinkled and obtrusive to the eye. The corners can show white (where the artwork pasted slick was) meaning, slight wear. No seam splits or writing on the cover or taped repairs can make this grade.
VERY GOOD PLUS or VG+ record shows wear, surface scuffs. The vinyl still has a great luster, but the flaws will be noticeable to the naked eye. If the flaws don't cause any surface noise, the vinyl can still make the VG+ grade. COVERS: A virtually clean cover, but may have small writing on it.The artwork looks clean with slightly more aging. The back of the cover usually gives away the age of the cover. Flat white paper will be somewhat yellow yet no stains or mildew from water damage. Some minor wear to the seams or spine, but no tears or holes popping through. The corners will be slightly dog eared yet no crackly bends, defacing the artwork. In essence, a VG+ cover should have no more than 3 flaws mentioned.
VERY GOOD or VG: this record is a record that is good enough. They are not really going to look very good, but it will STILL play very good. there will almost always be some surface noise when they are played. The Dynamics should still be excellent, overpowering the surface noise. A VG record will appear well have been played but still have some luster. VG covers will look worn, used. There may be some seam splitting . There will be some ring wear, where the ink has begun to wear off. Giving the cover a look of snow falling. If the artwork looks snowy all over, it is less than VG condition. There may be some writing on the cover (still, no Large letters in magic marker). It will look aged and more yellowish due to contamination's in the air (sometimes looking like cigarette smoke). Still it should be decent.
GOOD or G A good record will look very well played, dull, grayish and possibly abused. However a Good record should still play. It will have distracting surface noise. Such as crackle that is continuous or some hiss. Will also have some loss of dynamics caused from grooves being worn. It should play without any skips or any obtrusively loud pops or repeated clicks, caused by deep scratches. Good means that it will play with some form of decency, so one can still enjoy the music even though you can still hear noise caused from the wear. A Good cover will have just about everything wrong with it. It will have seam splits (possibly taped repaired, but only with scotch tape. No duct tape or masking tape repairs. These are big turn offs. May have magic marker writing on the cover but still if they are in huge letters, it is a big turn off.In essence, the cover will looked virtually trashed, but some artwork will still be noticed. If the artwork is worn, it is POOR and the cover is worthless.
On a scale from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Perfect) the above gradings are equivalent to:
MINT - 10, Near Mint - 8, Excellent - 7, Very Good Plus - 6 , Very Good - 5 , Good - 2
You come home after a long day at work and you want to throw a record on the turntable to listen to while you cook yourself some dinner. What do you want to listen to? Something soothing? Rocking? Funky? Bluesy? Can't make up your mind? Why don't you throw a compilation like the ones Ronco used to produce and you can have it all on one single record!
You remember those TV commercials for Ronco Teleproducts Inc. and many other song compilation labels. "20 Giant Hits - As Advertised on TV" Low priced and probably low fidelity - how did they get so many songs on each side? - these compilations offered many of the hit songs of the day in one convenient place.
Today, they are amazing snapshots of what was popular at a certain moment in time. they are also great fun to play, because it is like turning on your favorite radio station back in the day.
Compilations like this one called 'Do It Now' are pretty easy to find in dollar bins at Goodwills and garage sales and worth picking up. They are fun at parties and often contain at least one or two 'one hit wonder' songs by artists you had completely forgotten about or never really heard of. This 'collage album,' - whose effort were apprently donated to something called the 'Do It Now Foundation,' what ever that was - incluudes songs from many major artists (The Beatles, Melanie, Jimi Hendrix The Byrds, etc.) and a few less major. Do you remember a band called 'Crazy Elephant?' How about a duo named 'Mel & Tim?' Or 'Teegarden & Van Winkle?"
They are all here - and more - in a crate waiting to be dug near you.