Second hand vinyl surface damage.


Most analogue enthusiasts enjoy perusing and buying second hand vinyl. I was doing so this week, and picked out four LP`s that I wanted to add to my collection, but only after carefully inspecting their surfaces. Naturally a delicate item such as an LP undergoes `ageing`, a thirty plus year old desirable will not have escaped some surface damage. There are occasionally long and short deeper scratches, and more often clusters of light hairline scratches. If you want it you will have to put up with the result of said surface damage, so what do members consider damage enough to regretfully put the LP back on the shelf?
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Impossible to tell without play checking the record, ideally after a good cleaning. There are tell-tales that can indicate a record is trashed, but even a pristine looking record can suffer from groove chew by old kludgey tone arms. I tend to look for dead stock, old still sealed cut outs or records that appear to have been unplayed. And the vagaries of record manufacture that people complain about today did exist in the old days. Add warps as an issue of potential concern- something that can be rectified in most cases with the appropriate equipment but can be problematic without a good flattening system.
I’ve had records that looked like crap and plays fine and others that look fine and are distorted, the groove walls having been abraded or damaged.
If the question is how much noise or how many nasties I'm willing to put up w/, the answer is none. Granted, vinyl is  susceptible to such problems, but it's not impossible to find old records that play cleanly without issues. Some have more inherent surface noise than others which I will tolerate but this type of "noise" is different than what I think you are describing. E.g., Old Impulse pressings, some Bell Records, etc. 
If you see the scratch through the lead-in grooves between cuts that means you're going to hear it. If it disappears between cuts its probably inaudible.
I have 2500lps, a great many my old ones, old ones given to me by friends (old dogs buying in the 60’s, 70’s, early 80’s, until CD became affordable).

Many new I bought when CD’s drove LP prices down, primarily high end classical issues, newly discovered Jazz.

Then, CD for me for years, a few years ago started buying many used from thrift stores, those fit your thread, as well as new.

I look for zero scratches, ignore paper dust, don’t mind some/minor surface scuffs which are very rarely audible, don’t worry about finger prints. and critically look for lack of real dirt in the grooves. See a bimp in a playing area that might cause a skip, forget it.

Manually cleaning my old ones and gifts, and recent/current used purchases has been very successful once I bought a cleaning kit with a drying rack for batches of 10, and distilled rinse. Thus no rush to clean/play right away which was never successful.

You really cannot see groove wear, but they were likely played by a spherical or elliptical stylus. I am using an advanced stylus shape, getting further down into the grooves, more side wall contact, and finding, even ones I played the heck out of in the 60’s sound surprisingly good. Scratch, out it goes. Replace a true favorite with new or near mint LP, yes, or ask for it for a gift.

Of course we like nice covers, however I personally don’t care about the cover condition IF I know I want it, IF the price is good. I’ve always thrown the shrink wrap away day 1,

If I find audible scratches, out to the trash

skips: I now keep a supply of small alcohol wipes near my TT. If I have a skip, I watch it, watch paper label go around so I know essentially where it is, stop, more light, most often see a tiny speck in the groove: clean with alcohol wipe/hand pressure, try, mostly skip is gone, or out it goes. sometimes, not often, I cannot see anything, but try the wipe, gone

......................................

I sell on eBay, unconditional full refund, no one has requested a refund.

my typical LP listing (you can see my audio system, 'new' 2 arm vintage TT, cleaning method here)

https://www.ebay.com/itm/133527873619

btw, I sold over 150 Reel to Reel tapes on eBay, 1 buyer asked for refund, 1 box destroyed purposely it seemed by PO (tape ok), I gave them full refunds and let them keep the tapes.

btw, multi disc collections are often played only once, or not even past side one of disc one, as they were gifts to someone who ’wasn’t into it’. I just scored Earl Fatha Hines, 5 lps, never played, $15, near virgin box.
Any scratches i would pass also deep scuffs leave in the bin.I have over 5 thousand mint lps mostly classical,blues and some jazz.
whart
Impossible to tell without play checking the record, ideally after a good cleaning. There are tell-tales that can indicate a record is trashed, but even a pristine looking record can suffer from groove chew by old kludgey tone arms ... I’ve had records that looked like crap and plays fine and others that look fine and are distorted, the groove walls having been abraded or damaged.
Yup, same here.  Buying a used record is always a roll of the dice.
Do what elliottbnewcombjr says.  He's really got the situation pegged.
i take a small powerful flashlight with me and only buy near mint records, i dont mind a filthy record as i am going to clean it anyways but i have very little tolerance for scratches.  but the good news is that they are out there, not all records were misused and plenty of them were barely played you just have to keep looking.
It’s not just inspecting/cleaning them, it is how you get em also.

Sometimes I’m careful, sometimes not so much.

I’m a listener, not a collector, and never spend a lot individually for used. Buying on Discogs, unseen, I sort by condition, buy new, mint, nearly mint only. 1 came dirty, annoying, but luckily cleaned up nicely.

Find a title of interest, Then, which pressing? I pay some attention, make a guess/choice. Before add to cart I do a general search for that specific title, sometimes find a new one for less than a used one. Again, what pressing?

Concert, selling LP’s in the lobby? Search on your phone, less, now, wait, gotta make a decision. I have patience to wait.

picked up 4 used lps yesterday, $17. At that price, if one bad, no biggie.

Just walking to the car, Donna sees something ’cute’ in a window, small shop, store owner told her he was closed, but come on in while he shuts down.

Turns out he has some new and used LPs in the back, Donna comes out and tells me. I don’t have the time/patience to really go over them, especially wearing a mask, and Donna waiting for me, so I only pulled out of sleeve halfway, see anything, forget it. Look encouraging, this situation, ok, I didn’t even look at the other side,

Look good, unknown singer, nice list of instruments, I ask Donna to look the artist up on her phone, next thing I am listening to her voice, hmmmm

Point is, you win most of the time, you lose some. I lump them all in my brain, some mistakes, but all together, over many years, I’ve gotten a lot of music I would never have bought new, and a large majority clean up quite enjoyably.

I’ll let you know if all good after I clean them.
I’m probably more tolerant than most audiophiles. But if there are any grooves that either skip or repeat, if there are grooves that display significant distortion (from being chewed up by a previous owner), or if the noise floor becomes overpowering for even rock music, then it gets put into the "do not play" pile. Deep scratches that yield a loud "pop" an 2 second intervals can be awful, and I judge them on a case-by-case basis. Occasionally there will be a record with a single extraordinarily loud "POP" instance - and then I try to find a baked-on piece of grit that caused it so it can be cleaned off. Of course, when a record is a bit noisy I will play it, but if I really like it I’ll try to acquire a better copy, eventually.

I visually inspect vinyl at local stores. And on DiscOgs I aim for VG+ or NM, only going down to VG if absolutely necessary. With this, it’s relatively rare to encounter a record that fails my playback criteria. It’s more likely that the recording/master/pressing just sounds "blah", and I will not want to listen to it again for that reason. But that's the value of vintage vinyl - they tend to sound better than most reissues. So I find it extremely worthwhile to buy used. 

I do have one record I love with a failed end-groove (Dust - Hard Attack side A), but no other playback issues. That’s no fun, when you get to the end of a side and your expensive MC stylus is sent careening into the paper label (a water damaged label to boot)!
played 3 out of 4, didn't even clean them, essentially noiseless. will play 4th tomorrow
If this has already been noted sorry for the repeat.  If you are buying an LP that had one or two blockbuster hits check those tracks to see if they look more worn than the rest.  If you see this you are probably looking at a record that was purchased new by someone who knew little and cared less about record care and preservation.  They probably also used a table/arm/cart combo that caused excessive wear and groove noise every play.  This can the worst defect of some used records and one of the hardest to detect visually.  So if you find a mostly pristine looking first edition Led Zep but Stairway to Heaven looks noticeably duller or different in any way from the remainder drop it fast.  Sorry that this doesn't help online buyers.
Unfortunately and IME the only way to truly determine the condition of a record is to play it! I recently acquired what looked like a Mint copy of a little known Direct to Disc. This LP was graded Mint minus, and looking at the sleeve and the record, the grading was correct. The record was cleaned with a Ultra Sonic cleaner and played. Result..tremendous hash and noise, particularly between tracks. Very sad, as the record has great potential and is hard to source. Someone in the past had played the record with a worn stylus and not realized the damage caused.
@daveyf if you haven't already, try a second thorough cleaning.  Sometimes by cleaning and playing a used LP, especially something like a D2D, old ground in dirt gets loosened and more noticeable in the sound.  No guarantee but the second cleaning can really help.  
russashe
... Sometimes by cleaning and playing a used LP, especially something like a D2D, old ground in dirt gets loosened and more noticeable in the sound ...
Huh? Why would the recording technique - which is all direct-to-disc is - make a difference as to how dirt is loosened from a groove?
I have about 4500 albums now that I got back in the early 2000's. Generally cost me no more than a dollar apiece. Don't know the market today but I know a good album upon visual inspection. Learn the Goldmine standard. It will be accurate. No need to play an album. The only thing that gets past me is groove damage. I wouldn't deal with anyone online that doesn't adhere to it. Learn to see the damage if any
 Then I don't play anything less than VG+. This becomes very important as you upgrade to expensive cartridges. Plus it increases enjoyment. Say no to surface noise.
It should be illegal to sell those fake record players like Crosley. I've seen guys spend $40 on an LP only to ruin it on a $69 junker.
@cleeds  Anything that would be audiophile grade, just pulled D2D out of the air at random.  It's just that you notice crud more on superior recordings. Chances are good if you have a better than average deck the stylus is probably much smaller than the previous owner was using so it reaches much deeper in the groove where the old crud is and it gets raked up.  This isn't every used LP but it does happen time to time.
@russashe  Thanks for the suggestion. I applied Gruv Glide to the album in question and this helped a little, i will re-clean it again, this time using a wet vacuum system. I am afraid that the damage to the groove is permanent though, we shall see. 
@rushashe ....great tip about the popular track on an album ....i'll do my best to remember that one ..
If you want clean records, highly recommend Walker Enzyme. Tom Port recommended it to me, its all they use at Better Records, and it is clearly obviously easily superior to the Disc Doctor system I was using before. I don't use his expensive final rinse water, just my own filtered, and vacuum the final rinses off with my VPI, and still it is awesome.
@cleeds Just found this.  Author does a decent job of explainig record surfaces and cleaning issues.  Worth a look.

https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/for-audiophiles/record-cleaning/