How We Grade 78s

We use the VJM system to grade 78s.  The VJM Record Grading System is an internationally-used and recognized system for grading both 78s and LPs, although we use it only for our 78s.  It is used by virtually all 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.

Records that are play-graded are played on various turntables, (Technics, Dual) mounted with a Stanton 681 cartridge and stylii of various sizes rescued from the old RCA studios in Manhattan. The signal is fed to either a Fisher 80-C tube preamp with switchable Turnover and Rolloff points, or to a Stanton 210B preamp. The signal then goes through whatever integrated amp I happen to be using that week, to a pair of Boston Acoustic HD8 two-way speakers (as well as a pair of Grado headphones) for near-field monitoring. For making digital recordings, the Tape Out of the amp goes directly to the computer's sound card.

 As new and un-played (there are virtually no 78s that can categorically be claimed to be un-played).
 Nearly Mint, but has been played. No visible signs of wear or damage.
 Plays like new, with very, very few signs of handling, such as tiny scuffs from being slipped in and out of jackets.
 Still very shiny, near new looking, with no visible signs of wear, but a few inaudible scuffs and scratches.
 Still shiny but without the luster of a new record, few light scratches.
 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.
V  Moderate, even wear throughout, but still very playable. Surface noise and scratches audible but not intrusive.
V-  Quite playable still, but distortion and heavy graying in loud passages. Music remains loud in most passages. Surface noise and scratches well below music level.
G+  Gray throughout but still serviceable. Music begins to sound muffled. Heavy scratches.
G  Quite seriously worn and scratched, but music level is still higher than surface noise.
G-   Music still prominent, but wear and scratch damage extensive.
F  Most of music remains audible over surface noise, but listening now uncomfortable.
P  Unplayable.


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;  cvr = cover; s = stereo;  rf = rough;  aud/inaud = audible/inaudible.