How to Grade Vinyl Album Covers

When trying to decide which records to purchase, the first thing a buyer sees is the cover. If the cover is junk, most people figure, the record must be junk as well. This isn’t always the case, but many people do judge a book – or a record – by its cover. In fact, there are many buyers now who purchase records specifically for the cover. It’s getting to the point where the cover is more important than the music.

If you are a beginning seller, it is important to know how to properly grade your album covers. Good does not mean good, as far as record covers go; good means kind of beat up, actually. Whether you plan to sell on eBay, Craigslist, or the local flea market, becoming familiar with these terms and definitions for grading your albums is very important.

Near Mint

A Near Mint cover has no ring wear, creases, or splits. It is as close to perfect as an open album can get. Personally, I won’t grade a cover NM unless it still has the shrink wrap.

VG+ / Excellent

Some people don’t differentiate between Very Good Plus and Excellent, while others list Excellent records as being in just a little better condition than VG+. VG+ covers can have very minor wear, such as a bit of ring wear or seam wear. There may be a very small split, less than an inch, on the bottom edge. A cover with a cut-out notch, no matter how good the condition is, should not be graded as NM, but VG+ or Excellent instead.

Very Good

VG covers are average covers, like we all had in our record collections as teenagers: ring wear, creases, some writing, and seam splits are all signs of a VG album cover. It should look like it has been handled but not ruined.


An album cover graded as good may have ring wear to the point of overpowering the cover art, serious seam splits, and a lot of writing on the cover. A cover graded as good is not actually good, but instead is on the verge of falling apart.


If good covers are on the verge of falling apart, poor covers are falling apart. Poor covers are so heavily damaged that they should be used as floor mats or just thrown away.

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