2nd hand record shops - vinyl grading

I have a second hand record shop near me, a potential treasure trove. On my most recent visit a 1965 copy of Dylan’s “Bringing it all back home” caught my eye. However, the vinyl had some surface scratches on it and at £35 was something of a risk. I asked the owner if he had a returns policy and having given me his special sneer said no, you have to take your chances. So, the record when straight back into the rack. My question for you is do you expect to be able return second hand records that don’t live up to expectations or am I being naïve?

Like it or not, Caveat Emptor applies here, I feel. I can’t imagine that the same legal provisions apply to s/h records as a s/h car for example.

Having said that, if the proprietor is a knob, I would not buy anything from him on principle.

Perhaps you could find other records less expensive that he has graded and see if those gradings match your expectations? Assuming his knob-ness does not put you off.


Probably didn’t make it clear. He is not grading the records. He is putting a financial value on them but not offering an opinion on their condition. I guess in that way you cannot come back to him and argue that the record is not NM or whatever. And yes I bought a Talking Heads record off him before Xmas. I could see the vinyl was in good nick and it was £10.

As a starting point, grading of second hand records should be accurate. I don’t expect second hand records to be perfect, so some surface scratches and/or noise should be expected (to an extent depending on grading). Sometimes the surface noise can be (a lot) louder than expected and in those cases I will typically return the record and get something else instead. The second hand record shops that I sometimes buy from all accept this without issue - and that’s how it should be.

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The SH record shop that’s just opened near me grades nothing. However he has TT in the shop and is very happy for a trial play before purchase.

Takes me back 50 years to happy lunch hours out of school spent in a listening booth in the local record shop. :grinning:

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I see… In my experience decent s/h record shops will at least attempt a grading structure; others including charity shops and bric-a-brac shops are a bit more laissez-faire. Grading is very subjective though, even if Record Collector Magazine criteria are applied.

Given the price inflation of s/h vinyl, £10 is taking a punt money, if a thorough visual inspection suggests so. I think you have got to play it but ear. If his stock seems consistent (IE very decent) then patronise the place.

I recently bought my first s/h LP in ages, also for £10, which, despite hardly being " 180g audiophile vinyl" blah blah blah plays very well with only one slight glitch after going through my RCM. I was able to have a good look at it in artificial as well as natural light. No grading was applied as this was from a bric-a-brac establishment.

I feel if you’re in the business of selling records, then you inspect before you price and therefore have come to a view of it’s grading. Stand by that grading and put it on the record. I understand you cannot listen to every record and confirm that grading but if you value repeat business accept that you may inadvertently grade wrongly at times and have returns. I looked at six records on my last visit and the vinyl in every case looked like it might have potential aural issues so I didn’t buy. These weren’t expensive but I’m not prepared to throw money away.

There are “official” grading systems. Record Collector or Goldmine. If buying online from Discogs for example you can return records that dont match the grading as item not as described and there are feedback ratings and comments for sellers. Most sellers are professional though and have acceptable return policys.
Similarly on sites like Ebay if a seller is using terms like NM or Ex etc ask which grading system is their reference and again return as not as described
As has already been mentioned caveat emptor strongly applys with both used and new record dealers/shops, so while you could recover your money if dealer/shop has a shitty attitude avoid the hassle and give a wide berth, most though ime are friendly, their in business to sell records and it’s not on their interest to p*ss people off.
Oh, and just to add, pay by credit card and you can claim back from the card issuer (In the UK at least)
It’s probably fair to say that in many ways you are better covered buying used records online even though you havent actually seen the record than a real world shop

I disagree, some lesser dealers/sellers would like buyers to believe its subjective but it isn’t really
The following example from Discogs is pretty clear imo

Near Mint (NM or M-)


A nearly perfect record. A NM or M- record has more than likely never been played, and the vinyl will play perfectly, with no imperfections during playback. Many dealers won’t give a grade higher than this implying (perhaps correctly) that no record is ever truly perfect. The record should show no obvious signs of wear. A 45 RPM or EP sleeve should have no more than the most minor defects, such as any sign of slight handling. An LP cover should have no creases, folds, seam splits, cut-out holes, or other noticeable similar defects. The same should be true of any other inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, etc.

A record advertised as NM that doesnt meet the above criteria isn’t, simple

I agree that cheaper used records are a punt.

But even records that look good visually can sound awful when played due for example being played on a crappy groovegrinder TT or having been previously “cleaned” by sploshing neat Isopropyl all over it (I knew a record dealer that used to do that)

The above grading example states the record must play perfectly so it’s got you covered.

I do buy from Discogs so am aware of Goldmine. I think you’re right, there is better protection buying here than from many second hand shops. I would like to try and support real stores but not if they are unhelpful.

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Many sellers on Discogs also have real world shops.
Coincidentally I recently saw a record I wanted, turned out the seller had a shop I didnt know about just a couple of miles away so I popped along, very friendly person, bought a few more genuinely excellent condition records and a discount for cash, cushty!

Many sellers on Discogs also have real world shops.
Coincidentally I recently saw a record I wanted, turned out the seller had a shop I didnt know about just a couple of miles away so I popped along, very friendly person, bought a few more genuinely excellent condition records and a discount for cash, cushty!

Always been told; in shops that I can exchange if unhappy with record when played, on line it’s been a bit more problematic, Discogs normally exchanged or money back if not as described but e-bay well never again. That saidn I have usually had good experiences in shops and Discogs.

The thing is though, I have bought records that were brand new that were not “mint” by those criteria.

I think that when vinyl was really the only option for buying recorded music (ie pre-CD, and excluding reel to reel, cassette, and 8-track) there was perhaps more acceptance that the medium was prone to problems.

I have occasionally bought from dealers at record fairs, and their descriptions were optimistic to say the least.

I mostly buy CDs now: both new and second hand. They may not sound quite as good a a record via my Linn, but I have had no problems with CDs at all.

If the OP’s record shop sells fairly-priced records, he will stay in business, if not…

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The same applys

Look for Ebay sellers with, I haven’t bought on there for a while, I think it’s called trusted seller or such like which qualifies Ebays Buyer Protection and pay with PayPal. Or in UK use a credit card and your protected. It’s a hassle agreed but you are covered

My favourite place has a very reliable grading system. They also clean and put a new inner sleeve on. I have always been very pleased with the quality of the vinyl and to be honest they have very little in the racks that is marked down as the owner is pretty picky as to what he sells. I think they started many years back specialising in classical and soundtracks.

Sounds like The Record Album in Brighton?

One reason, perhaps the main one was the arrival of CD to push LPs out as CDs if nothing else had very few returns. And thats new, not used. For piece of mind when buying used you need to use a specialist.
With a bit of care in a charity shop purchase the sleeve condition, inner sleeve correctly positioned to stop dust, marks around the inner label and general scuffs. Mild scuffs don’t always sound. Bit like a used car. Looks wrong: probably is.
Makes buying used CDs much easier, but thats not the question.