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How do I grade my 78 RPM Records?

Jon R Warren
I believe someday all collectibles will be graded using a 10-point scale, and that this universality will be a factor in making them a recognized investment like stocks and bonds. Grading services will exist for every type of antique or collectible, and these grading services will enable a liquid marketplace for trading in antiques and collectibles of all kinds. Collectors will view their collection “portfolio” as a source of retirement income in the same way that stock investors do today. EBay and similar sites will be the "NASDAQ" for the liquidation of these collectible investments. This isn't a great insight on my part, it is already happening in a small way, and I believe it is just beginning.

The 78 RPM Record Collecting Hobby uses a grading system known as the VJM Grading System. The VJM Record Grading System is an internationally-used and recognized 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 version of the former, introduced in the early 1950s.

The VJM System has never been, however, aligned with a 10-point system. We have attempted with this guide to match the VJM system to a 10-point system, because, in our opinion, buyers feel more secure with "sight unseen" Internet buying when they are familiar with a 10-point grading system. New collectors in any hobby become advanced collectors through knowledge, including knowledge of terminology. Without such a set of grading terms and definitions, buyers may feel confused and uncertain about the quality of items they are buying over the internet or through the mail. Confusion and uncertainty are not good for the growth of any hobby.

This VJM/10-point scale for grading  is similar to systems already adopted in other markets. By using a set of standardized grading terms, we can ensure the growth of the hobby now and in the future.

I welcome your feedback. Please e-mail me with comments and suggestions. My e-mail address is

I have outlined the various grades, and described the specifications for each. These grading definitions are intended to help you rate the condition of your item. As in any collectible, the better the condition of an item, the more valuable it is.

C10 = N : Store Stock New
As new and unplayed (there are virtually no 78s that can categorically be claimed to be unplayed). C9 : N-
Nearly New, but has been played. No visible signs of wear or damage. C8 = E+
Plays like new, with very, very few signs of handling, such as tiny scuffs from being slipped in and out of sleeves. C7 = E : Excellent
Still very shiny, near new looking, with no visible signs of wear, but a few inaudible scuffs and scratches.
C6 = E-
Still shiny but without the luster of a new record, few light scratches.
C5 = V+
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.

C4 = V : Very Good
Moderate, even wear throughout, but still very playable. Surface noise and scratches audible but not intrusive. C3 = V-
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.
C2 = G+
Grey throughout but still serviceable. Music begins to sound muffled. Heavy scratches.
C1 = G : Good
Quite seriously worn and scratched, but music level is stillhigher than surface noise.
G- ; F ; and P
The VJM system has these designations for records in extremely poor condition. We do not place these on the 10-point scale because records in this condition have little or no value. In cases where the record is extremely rare, it would be worth the C1 price.
sfc = surface lbl = label nap = not affecting play scr/scrs = scratch/scratches lc or lam  = lamination crack cr = crack gv/gvs= groove/grooves hlc/hc = hairline crack wol = writing on label sol = sticker onlabel fade = faded label eb = edge bite ec = edge chip ef =edge flake cvr = cover s = stereo rc= rim chip rf = rough;
aud/inaud = audible/inaudible
lt = light