Deciding What Records to Submit For Grading
| Andrew Torres
Determining whether to get a record graded from your collection can be a challenging decision. What do graders look for and how will your record be graded? You'll want to take time and research your record and make sure it's the most viable candidate for grading because your record will be preserved for decades to come.
There are 4 categories Tuned In Grading takes into account when we grade and encapsulate your record: the record, the jacket, the labels and the inner sleeve, if applicable.
As you personally evaluate and research potential records you'd like to submit for grading, here are some of the factors that affect each of those 4 categories and things you'll want to be on the lookout for.
The record is the single most important element in grading. It affects your overall grade more than any other category so you'll want to inspect and evaluate your record carefully before submission. These are some of the factors graders will be looking for.
Scratches are the first thing a grader will look for. They affect the grading of a record more than any other factor. There are, however, multiple types of scratches that affect records differently. The common rule of thumb on scratches is that if you can feel it, you can hear it. Feelable scratches will affect the grade of a record more than non-feelable scuffs and marks. The best way to identify feelable scratches is to gently rub your thumb or index finger across the scratch. The greater number of feelable scratches, the lower the grade. Non-feelable scratches generally affect the playability of a record less negatively but can still have an unsightly appearance and are evaluated accordingly. In general, you'll want to submit a record that has as few feelable and non-feelable scratches on it.
Warping greatly impacts the grade of a record. Warping happens in different ways under different circumstances. Records should be stored vertically at all times. If they've been stacked on top of each other for an extended period of time, they may become dish-warped, which means they have taken on a concave shaping to look subtly like a dish. You'll be able to identify a dish warp by placing your record on a turntable; if the edge of the record sticks up slightly, it may be dish-warped. A dish warped record will have its edges stick up slightly when placed on a turntable on 1 side and when you turn it over, you'll notice the center of the record tends to stick up slightly on the center hole. You'll want to submit as flat a record as possible for the best possible grade.
Heat warps are more detrimental to a record and will greatly impact its grade. Heat warps are not repairable and permanently have a negative affect on a record's playability. Heat warps develop when a record is exposed to too much heat or direct sunlight. They generally appear on a record visually with a different texture than what you would see on a normal record. It will look less glossy. Because a heat warp affects a record's ability to even play, they will have a greater negative impact on a record's grade than a dish warp.
Records are not made like digital media like CDs. CDs are exact duplicates of each other and the first CD made will sound like that last CD made. Records on the other hand are an analog creation where art and nuance are an integral part of the production process. Each record made is comparable to a fingerprint in that each one has different characteristics that are determined by a number of different variables including water temperature, water pressure, quality of the raw materials all down to the ambient room temperature and the mood of the press operator. In a press run of new records, there will be varying degrees of quality and all of those factors may have an impact of a record's grade. Pressing defects are the most likely reason a newer record may have received a lower grade. Pressing defects to look out for include
• Improper trimming where the edge of the record wasn't trimmed properly and has visual imperfections
• Dimples caused from artifacts that may have gotten into a record press
• Marks or scuffs that were missed during Quality Control checks
• Center hole issues that may include vinyl artifacts to a center hole being too large or too small
The record jacket is the 2nd most important element in grading. It is the first thing a person sees when they pick up a record and is its most visual element. It encompasses what an artist wants their listeners to experience visually and is the best first impression an artist can make. The jacket is arguably why records are still so popular as it is the most difficult element to replicate digitally. There's nothing like holding a record in its cover. Factors graders are looking for when evaluate record jackets include:
Ring wear is created when records are stored tightly together over time and the impression of a record starts to develop on the cover, creating a noticeable ring on the cover that's shaped the size of the record itself. It tends to show more often on darker covers.
Tearing And Splitting
Record covers are mostly made of paper and cardboard which makes them vulnerable to wear over time. When handled improperly, covers can become torn or begin to split along the seams. Splitting generally starts either at the jacket's opening or sometimes in the center if a record is loose inside its jacket.
Marks And Writing
While you don't see writing on covers so much on newer record jackets, it was very common in the 60s, 70s and 80s for people to write on their record covers. Sometimes people wrote their names, sometimes they marked on it in other ways with a pen or Sharpie out of boredom. All marks and writing will negatively affect a record jacket's grade.
Water Damage/Mold/Heavy Damage
The single most negative impact on a record jacket's grade will be a cover that has water damage, mold that has developed from a cover that had gotten wet or heavy damage like you might see when a cat has scratched a record cover's spine. Water damage can sometimes be subtle and can include what's called moisture waving. This is when a cover hasn't necessarily become wet but has been in a high humidity environment for an extended period of time. Visually the record jacket looks like it has some waving to it that you'll be able to feel. More catastrophic examples include when a record has become water damaged and the cover has begun to flake away or mold has developed on the cover from being wet. These scenarios will greatly have a negative impact on a record jacket's grade.
Labels have a more minor impact on the overall grade of a record but you'll still want to look out for these factors when selecting a record to be graded:
Label wear encompasses a number of factors that affect how a label looks on a record. Spindle marks are created when a listener consistently misses putting the record's center hole on the turntable properly and the its spindle rubs against the label until the record is placed on the turntable properly. Labels can also tear or get wet and peel away, all of which negatively impact a label's grade. Label wear also includes pen marks or stamping. Like jackets, some people would write on their record's labels or a record station sometimes stamped a record's label with a date or radio station call letters. While these don't affect a record's playability, they do affect a record's visual appeal.
Labels, like the record itself, are also subject to pressing defects. Labels have to be at a specific temperature and humidity level to be affixed properly. If they're not, some defects may develop that are missed during Quality Control. These include:
• Labels affixed slightly off-center
• Labels that have bubbling because they were too humid when affixed
• Multiple labels affixed to the same side from labels sticking together from excess humidity
• Center hole tearing caused by pressing machines
• Artifact of vinyl pressed into the label