How to tell if the record is worn out?

On my recent trip to WFMU annual record show i encountered a problem that i've never dealt with before.Out of 50 records that i bought there 30 turned out to be worn out to a point where you can't even listen to them.Visually they look perfect though as if someone carefully played them from the beginnig to the end a 1000 times on a bad turntable,not a single scratch or fingerprint.I don't know if i's just a bad luck or since the show became annual instead of twice a year maybe many dealers do not care about returning customers any more?Is there any way to tell if a record is in bad condition?Maybe i should bring a big magnifying glass with me next time,the problem is:i don't know what to look for.Any opinions on this one?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to visually inspect a record and tell whether it's going to be ok. Making the problem worse is the fact that there are dealers at shows that cosmetically treat their records to make them look perfect. I'm not sure how they do it (perhaps someone else can chime in with an opinion on this), but the records look absolutely fabulous. In fact, they look too good to be true, and you know what they say about that. If I'm buying at a show, I'd actually rather buy a record that looks less than pristine, or a record that has not actually been cleaned as I don't really know what someone has done to clean that record. If they've manually cleaned and not vacuumed the record, there is a very high possiblity that all they've done is solidify a bunch of crap in the grooves so that even I can't get it out with an effective wet cleaning and vacuum.

On the other hand, there are many records that don't look particularly great that clean up remarkably well. The upshot of this is that I do the bulk of my used record buying at places that offer very cheap prices (read 50 cents to a buck or two max) and for more expensive fare stick to dealers that offer a return privelege if the record is not up to standards. Shows are a crapshoot.
You can hear the other side.
Bill: Ha, ha, ha, ha. Too funny!
I went to the WFMU show last year (during My Year in New York - book soon!) and bought 30 or so LPs. Only one was truly unlistenable - the rest cleaned up fine and sounded great. I'm not a high dollar record guy, so the most I paid was $6 for a nice copy of Lark's Tongue in Aspic. None of the records had been cleaned prior, and that was true for all the bins I was looking through. Very few were obviously junk, either, so clearly there had been at least a little prescreening.

That said, I think Hdm may be on to something. I watched a lot of people pulling $50 and $100 LPs out of the sleeve and they looked like black mirrors, way shinier than any new album I've seen. It was almost as if they were waxed or Armor-Alled. Since these were all used albums, it made me pretty suspicious, but people were buying them.

Like Hdm, I mostly stick to the 99 cent stuff at Goodwill and the closeout bins at used record stores. If one of those turns out truly bad, I just donate it back; they need the money, and maybe someone else will enjoy it more than I could.

Overhang, if you live in the NY/NJ area and haven't been to Princeton Record Exchange, it's well worth the trip. Great selection, fair prices, no waxing!
I am afraid that these practices have spread to Ebay. I have seen several records that show up looking good. They have been cleaned and possibly shined up. They play dead...heavy surface noise and terrible distortion. These records often have long, detailed and flowery descriptions. I do not like buying cleaned records!
Have you tried 'recleaning' them? Let the cleaing solution soak for a few minutes before rinsing...

Dewald Visser
Well the Armorall effect or Super shinny, and more so than any new album is not a good way to say it has been tampered with either, I clean using a VPI and record research fluid and its like a Black diamond when I get finished and the sound is Perfect without a crackle or pop!! So Reality is that super good clean 50 or 100 dollar album could in fact be treated with the best cleaning possible and play with the highest resolution you have heard..It does happen, and there are very impressive looks to a properly cleaned album is all I am saying if you have not had experience using one of the hi end cleaning machines.
I always clean/reclean, even new albums. I have a lovely Loricraft, so it is quiet and easy. I use any of 4 or 5 chemicals depending on dirt or mold issues. The last 2 passes are always RRL Deep wash followed by the Vinyl wash.
After all that, you can still have a crappy pressing. I was heart broken yesterday with a 1st pressing UK St. Pepper mono. It has to go back to England. The is seller is a nice guy and all, but I after 2 songs I knew it was shot.
I clean with the RRL fluids as well on a KAB EV1 and have also had records cleaned on a Monks so I know what a clean record looks like. As I said above, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. When a 20-50 year old record has an unusually high, extremely shiny "gloss" to it (far beyond what a record cleaned on a good machine using RRL does) and shows virtually no imperfections (I'm not averse to imperfections-many of them are not audible), it is indicative of some kind of cosmetic treatment that may or may not effect sound quality. And based on my experience, I'd say that "cosmetic treatment" may do one of two things: 1) hide extensive groove damage that might be visible had the record not been treated or 2) literally cement every bit of crap into the grooves rendering the record (at least from my perspective) unplayable. I've bought a record (fortunately only one and for $10) like this at a show that looked flawless and even after 3-4 cleanings using the RRL showed absolutely no improvement with respect to outrageously high surface noise (not actual groove damage). That record had definitely been treated and it wasn't with something that did anything good for it.
it is possible to tell if a record is worn by inspecting the raised edgeand the trail off, as well as the paper label, and wear or marks around the spindle hole. never buy anything graded less than mint/mint-/or near mint, unless you are prepared for disappointment, or unless it is very,very rare....all the vg+ 'this and that' is BS. REMEMBER, a`cleaning will not hide wear and tearif you look beyond the grooves.
>>it is possible to tell if a record is worn by inspecting the raised edgeand the trail off<<

No sorry. Very bad advice.

This tells you nothing about the groove structure and any damage that may exist.

Thank you.
Overhang, this sounds suspicious to me. I would not give up on those records quite yet. In my experience of collecting many 40 and 50 year old records, most can be returned to a very acceptable if not outstanding quality assuming there are no obvious scratches or other damage - which you indicate there are not. The biggest problem I have found on otherwise mint records is from those mis-guided individuals who tried to remove what was probably tape hiss or other recorded noise by using "Groove Glide" or a similar type of product. This is death to a record. I have spent untold hours trying to remove the effects of this from some records with no complete success. But in my experience these records will have a very recognizable and tell-tale dull appearance from the application of this material and all the dust and grime it attracts. This does not appear to be the case with your records. First, of course, you must be completely certain that the cartridge setup is accurate. Any actual groove damage can be verified by microscopy, see this site.

If you don't have access to a microscope to determine this, I may be able to help but I would suggest multiple cleanings first. Again, vinyl records are amazingly resistant to groove damage when appropriate playback equipment is used but there is a (small) percentage of records out there that look good but are hopelessly damaged. In my experience, the percentage is nothing like the number you quote. It is more often a setup or cleaning problem on my end.
Is that Groove Glide really that bad???
I think Groove Glide is great - I use mine all the time to lubricate my table saw and band saw blade but I will never again put it on a record. Not that it does anything terrible immediately but I suspect any type of added material like this will attract and adhere more dust and dirt over time and many other posters have commented that it adds its own sonic signature to the music.

I cannot specifically implicate Groove Glide in the records I have had problems with which is why I said "Groove Glide or a similar type of product" in my post above. Obviously I don't know exactly what some previous owner might have applied. But it is apparent from microscopic investigation that some sort of dirt adhering gunk is in the grooves which is far more difficult to remove than normal. I should mention that I typically use a 4 step cleaning process for used records which involves 1) a basic distilled water / alcohol/detergent recipe like you can find anywhere on the web scrubbed on using Last applicators and rinsed under warm water in the sink and record vac'ed off. Then 2&3) Paul Frumkin's 2 part enzymatic and alcohol solutions. The I test play the record and if there is any residual surface noise, I use 4) RRL's Super Vinyl wash. This is all dome with a modified shop vac setup which does a very good job if not quite as pristine as I have experienced from something like Doug Deacon's Loricraft which can do it all in a single pass (but at much greater expense).
This will typically produce an LP where the stylus remains perfectly clean through playing the LP or might need slight touch-up (a repeat cleaning) if there is a little residual dirt picked up. On a few records, however, (and I can think of only 4 out of about 600 used jazz LP's I've purchased), The stylus will be completely gunked up with crap after just the first track, even after this cleaning. It is clear to me from this and the generally "duller" appearance of the LP, that something has been applied and it takes many additional playing and cleaning of these records to begin to remove the material. (One such record was an otherwise mint copy of Art Farmer's "Farmers Market" which has some tape / pressing noise even in a mint original which I suspect some former owner thought was groove damage they could remove with Groove Glide or similar product.)
you need to tote a portable record player with you.

You can hear enough with one of these to tell if the record is ok.

I had put 300 LPs away 25 years ago. I recently purchased a turntable so I pulled then all out .They looked almost brand new. I cleaned all of the LPs manually with Disc Doctor. Every Lp I played was almost unlistenable but the ones I had just bought at a yard sale for $2 apiece sounded great. I thought that I must have ruined all my old albums with a worn out stylus or improper cleaning years ago. After cleaning all the LPs by hand I bought a VPI 16.5 and cleaned them all again using the same Disc Doctor solution. I almost fell out of my chair, all the LPs that I thought had been ruined played like new. So for me it is a combination of a VPI 16.5 RCM and disc Doctor. My guess the albums you think are worn out just might need the proper cleaning.