Vinyl records grading scale

I am sort of new to vinyl and am building up my LP collection. A very prime source for it is the internet used market where appears to be sort of a grading scale system to rate condition of vinyl records on sale (G+-, VG+-, EXC, NM, etc). Is there any place I can refer to for the criteria or guidelines as to what to expect from the different ratings?
Also, what has been your experience buying used, and what is the lowest acceptable rating to get substantially noise free (tic/pops) records? Please let me know, thanks.
Here is a start.

Remember however, that any grading scale, whether it be the Goldmine or AudiogoN, is open to different interpretations by different individuals.

for the most part, records are graded visually by collectors. a visual nm which is under m- or m is as low as you really need to go. its a crapshoot.
The generally recognized grading scale was established by Goldmine and a complete version of it can be found at the link below. According to that scale a grade of VG+ for the vinyl, as opposed to the cover, would meet your listening criteria. However, my experience in buying many records in auctions is that most records which are graded VG+ by sellers in fact are overgraded and do have playback issues. There even are many sellers out there, including some with great feedback records, who grade records as mint- or near mint which still have audible problems. The bottom line is that you have to know your seller in order to know what you are getting. The only caveat to that is that the risk is a bit lower for 80's/90's pressings of common records.
" substantially noise free (tic/pops) records? "
Regardless of the best rating, Some albums you will find good, but mostly will have this Tic/Pop regardless unless you use a powerful vacuume based album cleaner... They can turn mud into a gem if you know what your doing.. and if you want to get serious on really good vinyl, this is your best tool to buy, although somewhat expensive to implement on the starting gate.
This is a very sticky and subjective issue. The most important thing, as Arahl indicates, is to know your seller. The good ones will honor your returns if the record is not up to grade. But, as Undertow, suggests, the difference between an excellent LP and a poor one may be a matter of your own cleaning.
There is no absolute answer to your question as it depends on what you are willing to pay etc. A VG+, pre digital, reissue LP for $20 may be a very good deal compared to spending $300 for a NM- version of the same record as an orignal issue,... or maybe not. It depends on what you want.
Welcome to the world of analog collecting. It requires a substantial investment of effort into understanding labels, quality of reissues, remasterings and searching for what you are interested in, otherwise I would recommend investing in digital.
Guys, thanks very much for your quick responses. John/Arahl thanks for the links to the grading scale. That is exactly what I was hoping to find so that I can have an Idea of what each grade should represent.
I am very aware of the necesarily subjective nature of this process and the fact that most gradings will be a bit overstated. I am sure I will develope a feel for them after a few purchases I just want to narrow down the learning curve in terms not getting to many really bad ones.
My main concern is really noise when playing them more than visual marks wich in many ocassions do not affect playback.
Yeah, I put on my analog rig a Loricraft since inception which I consider mandatory some kind of decent RCM.
Any other comments with respect to cutt-off point for records from your experiences; or any other savy advices?
by sticking with a more selective visual grade you reduce the risk of noise, though the risk is still there.
I would say that ebay seller typically visual grade only and even then, its often in a pretty dim light. I would consider most records to be overgraded by one grade. VG+ really is VG, etc. and M- IS the lowest I would go. Most importantly, if you are paying a premium price, they should be play graded. Just my $0.02.
I agree that most record grading is spurious and has no correlation to the sound. Many records are M or near mint. The latter should mean pristine, perhaps played once and unmarked, they very seldom are. Visual grading is useless anyway, you need to play both sides and what commercial seller has time. I agree with Arahl, get to know sellers you can trust and stick with them.
A good vacume clean does make a big difference too.
From the following grading
Mint, NM, Ex, VG+, VG, Good, Fair, Poor, and Trash

If you have an expensive cartridge (over $300), which would be the least condition that you will be trying with your cartridge? How about for budget level (under $70)?

I have over 500 LPs, and most of them (about 300 that I bought from Garage sale at under $1.00) are Good ~ Trash condition. So far, I have not bothered play them on my Grado Black cartridges and inexpensive Shure cartridges. I recently purchased more expensive ones, and I wonder whether I'd rather be more careful.
I guess that based on responses one would ideally stay on EX/VG++ or above unless there is something really special that you want and theprice is adequate.
My limited experience has been that you can aproximate the noise level of most records by visual grade on relatively clean records. I suspect most of the ratings you see on sale offers are made pretty much that way. Again, thanks for your comments.
In your experiences where are the better source of good sellers? Ebay? Agon? other forums? private sellers or dealers? Thanks.
I agree that you need to get to know the seller. If you don't know the seller, you should assume overgrading. Even though VG is supposed to mean "very good," it actually means "vertible garbage" in many cases, especially if you only like to listen to dead quiet vinyl. One time I ordered some records from a large used record store that sends out a regular email list. Some of the records were listed as VG++, but the covers looked like a dog had chewed them and the records inside didn't look much better.

If you are spending the time and money to clean with a Loricraft (or any other record cleaner), I wouldn't bother with anything less than NM- or EX, unless you know the seller really well, or it is so dirt cheap, it is worth a try.

Good luck.

I dislike adding the "EX" grade in between VG+ and NM, or the use of "++" or "-" anywhere. Too much BS wiggle room. Folks should just stick with NM, VG+ (or EX, take your pick but not both), VG and G. Everything else is just the symptom of creeping grade inflation -- when you no longer define VG as actually being "very good" but "fair" instead, you run out of enough gradations at the top and start needing to add more. The solution is to grade properly to the real definition, i.e., VG should literally mean "very good" and G should mean "good", not "awful". This is the same nonsensical situation Stereophile has boxed themselves into by allowing a grade of B to become the lowest possible grade a component that's not inexpensive can earn without it being seen as a total failure, and assigning a grade of A to 80% of what they review. Therefore they've added a new grade of A+, and sometime they'll have to start adding A++. Meanwhile none of the grades any longer mean what the definition key they ridiculously keep on publishing says they're supposed to mean.
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How would you rate a new album which is not flat?
I bought one sealed. When I opened and played it, the fluctuation (ups and downs of the tone arm) is too much and I can hear the wobble.
If you bought a new album like that, would it be easy to return it for full refund? From ebay, Agon, private seller, or from record store?
02-26-07: Elizabeth
eBay code:
Mint: Still in it's original wrapper. (has plenty of mould, water stains, and the entire cover lays flat like a soup-bowl. But the guy who found it in a Salvation Army for $0.05 thinks it has never been played...
Near mint: same as above but has been used only a few times by a DJ scratcher. 99% of those grooves have never been touched.
VG++ :Hah hah aha ha... Same as near mint, but used by DJ after being in use at Juvi criminal lockup 'priviliges' area for 8 years.
VG+ : Even worse. Run over repeatedly by busses, after DJ dropped it in a hurry to his limo.
VG: Both Lp and cover chewed on by a dog playing "frisby" with owner who found it after busses did their thing.
GOOD: the LPs is possibly the one that belongs in what is left of the jacket. I may even be in one somewhat round chunk.