I use the following guidelines for grading:
NM: The record looks basically new. There are NO hairline scratches, NO marks of ANY KIND. Some records come new with spots of discoloration, for which I do not downgrade.
EX: As soon as I see even the faintest line, the record is no longer Near Mint but rather goes into this category. An Excellent pressing can have a handful of light marks. This grade should be considered “close to perfect.”
VG+: When a record has more than a handful of light marks, it goes into this category. More marks and light hairlines are acceptable here. Nothing that will cause repeating ticks or consistent background noise or anything like that. A VG+ record will satisfy most collectors.
VG: The record can have quite a few hairlines and maybe a few scratches. There will likely be noise, but it should play through and be very enjoyable. These are Very Good records and will satisfy most customers. Fine for parties and casual listening.
VG-: Definitely noticeable surface noise. Scratches. Likely will play all the way through without skipping on a standard turntable with a properly set-up arm/needle, but may not.
G+: More and deeper marks and scratches, consistent noise, possible skips. I rarely offer records in this condition.
G: This is 1 step above POOR, which is basically unplayable but will be desirable if it’s rare enough. I rarely offer records in this condition.
POOR: It’s a wall hanging, looks good on a shelf, maybe you have a cover and need the record or vice versa. Again, I rarely sell these.