Tips For Collectors

Normally you do not have any problem identifying specific data of your collector's item, but in some cases it is not always clear, i.e. where a pressing originates from, or if the song X on the sampler Y is from the original album Z or A. This part of the FAQ tries to give some hints on where to look closer to the disc, or album jacket. I hope it'll be useful to some of you...

Grading Systems

This is a very delicate topic, so let me explain why: Gradings do exist all over the world amongst collectors, and can be viewn as a description of the shape of a record, and so to determine the right value of the item. But yet there are still differences between the main collector circles in the U.S., England, and especially Germany.
Also note that vendors - in most cases professional ones - often do not pay much attention to those ratings and trying to charge too much of your hard earned cash. They buy whole collections for cheap money, and then looking up the value in their price guides without considering the shape of the disc. Of course they stick price stickers with the highest possible price on them they can find, normally those for mint/mint condition.
Another popular sport: Disregarding the marketplace they are selling their goodies. I often visit record shows and flea markets here in Germany, and there's always a dumbhead who's trying to fool me with the answer: "You ask me why this record is so expensive?! I read it in Record Collector!" - Exactly the answer I expect from those who are trying to be "my very special friend"... or why do you think I have to pay an extra for a german pressing just because they looked it up in an english or american price guide?

A serious note to all the second hand vendors in the world:
Listen, folks, you may or may not have noticed, but every collectors price guide includes a foreword! You can find this in the first part of your book. Please read them before you start sticking funny little prices on your items! And pay attention where you are selling and what price guide you use! - I thank you for your time.

Enough ranting, let's start with the European gradings:

European Gradings

The common gradings for the german (and surrounding countries) market was developed by the german collectors magazine "Oldie-Markt" in 1978. Their estimation rules still have legality in whole of Europe, with the exception of Great Britain who rate records by anglo-american rules. Basically it can be said that the estimations of Oldie-Markt are half step under those american and english ones. Means: A record considered to be "Good+" in Europe is going to be rated "Very Good" by english or american vendors. Collectors should have this in mind when browsing foreign trading or auction lists.
M = mint
The record (the cover) is by all means in new condition. There are no extraneous noises audible. Like already bought in a store.

VG = very good
The record was played and shows marginal noise. Hairscratches are visible, but not audible.
The cover only shows light wears.
The value of a vg/vg item is 75% of a m/m one.

G = good
The record was played more often. Scratches and surface noise are audible. Yet a record rated g is still enjoyable and good to be purchased.
The cover shows distinct marks, like small rents or paint on it, i.e. ink, stamps, adhesive tape, restauring marks from felt-tip pens.
The value of a g/g item is 50% of a m/m one.

W = worn
The bad ones start here. They've been played above average, scratches and noise are clearly audible. Only worth on rare items to complete a collection.
A cover in this category is worn out, often teared, or soiled (glue, stain, waterresistive pens, etc.).
The value of a w/w item is only 25% of a m/m one.

F = fair
The record is of no value acustically and virtually not playable anymore. The purcase of such an item is only for archival purposes.
The cover is teared or only kept in pieces.
The value of a f/f record is at best only 10% of a m/m one.

+ / -
The abbreviations are going to be added when the condition of the record or the cover is somewhere inbetween the qualities described above.

Here's a table wich helps you to determine the value of your records (EUROPEAN market!):

M VG G W F without
M 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 25%
VG 82,5% 75% 67,5% 60% 52,5% 21,5%
G 60% 55% 50% 45% 40% 15%
W 32,5% 30% 27,5% 25% 22,5% 8%
F 15% 13% 12% 11% 10% 4%
10% 8% 6% 4% 2% Fine! You saved
your money!

And the obligatory explaining example:

You're just walking down the record show, and suddenly you spot a french copy of Son of Suzy Creamcheese / Big Leg Emma. Your toenails errect, and you ask the vendor how much it is. "Oh, this one is extremely rar / super seldom / pristine shape / you won't see this anywhere else / blah, blah, blah...! Onehundretandfifty Marks!" (~$70) --- A closer look, and the record can be best described as "Good", but the sleeve is in "Very Good" condition. The single is worth roughly 215,- DM (~$100) in new condition, and the table above states a value of 55% of an item in m/m shape. That means the single is only worth 120,- DM (~$55), and if weapon laws weren't that rigid here in Germany I would have pulled out my Magnum...

Great Britain

The following is taken from a copy of "Record Collector" magazine, July 2000 (the one with the Zappa special...). The ratings (or "gradings", as they say) were valid for the auctions and offers in their mag. The main difference between thems and the german "Oldie-Markt" is the inclusion of more standards, they have additionally "excellent", "poor", and even "bad" included. - Now let's see what they say about their grading system:
M = mint
The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality. The cover and any extra items such as the lyric sheet, booklet or poster are in perfect condition.Records advertised as "Sealed" or "Unplayed" should be mint.

EX = excellent
The record shows some signs of having been played, but there is very little lessening in sound quality. the cover and packaging might have slight wear and/or creasing.

VG = very good
The record has obviously been played many times, but displays no major deterioration in sound quality, despite noticeable surface marks and the occasional light scratch. Normal wear and tear on the cover or extra items, without any major defects, is acceptable.

G = good
The record has been played so much that the sound quality has noticeably deteriorated, perhaps with some distortion and mild scratches. The cover and contents suffer from folding, scuffing of edges, spine splits, discoloration, etc.

F = fair
The record is still just playable but has not been cared for properly and displays considerable surface noise; it may even jump. The cover and contents will be torn, stained and/or defaced.

P = poor
The record will not play properly due to scratches, bad surface noise, etc. The cover and contents will be badly damaged or partly missing.

B = bad
The record is unplayable or might even be broken, and is only of use as a collection filler.

CDs and Cassettes
As a general rule, CDs and cassettes either play perfectly - in which case they are in Mint condition - or they don't, in which case their value is minimal. Cassette tapes is liable to deteriorate with age, even if it remains unplayed, so care should be taken when buying old tapes.
CDs are difficult to grade visually: they can look perfect but actually be faulty, while in other cases they may appear damaged but still play perfectly. Cassette and CD inlays and booklets should be graded in the same way as record covers and sleeves. In general, the plastic containers for cassettes and CDs can easily be replaced, if they are broken or scratched, but card covers and digipaks are subject to the same wear as record sleeves.

They have a table with the value of each item in those conditions mentioned above which can be condensed to a simplier one with percentage declarations (The British one!):

100% 80% 50% 30% 15% 8% 2,5%


I just have to find me a copy of "Goldmine" yet, so stay tuned...

Pressing Plants

EAN (European Article Numbering)

Example for identifying the country of releaseYou ever noticed the barcodes on the jackets and jewel cases, but always wondered what it is all about? You ask yourself how this info can be of any use to you? - When I first compiled and rearranged Bossk's(R) Singles FAQ I stumbled across the Maxi-CD "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted". I have this one in my own collection, and searched about the country of production, since the FAQ only mentioned Europe as its origin. Something like "Made in England", or "Printed in England", but no result...
I got curious about this coding when I got my CD-ROM drive and burner, who, like most of the newer ones now, are cabable of reading and writing CD-TEXT. With this functionality the burner also reads and writes ISRC-codes and the EAN number on the disc. More and more record companies use this feature now to mark their discs digitally, and so I began to do a little bit of research. Pay attention to the first 2 to 3 digits of the number.
Back to the problem, I now was able to determine the country of production, which is also in most cases the country of release. As you can see: Sometimes helpful to know what it is!    8-)

Excerpt from the link below:

What are the country codes?

Lots of people have requested the codes. Here is a partial list. Remember, it indicates the country that issued the code, NOT THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF THE PRODUCT. The authoritative list is here:

Country Codes
  • 00-13      USA & Canada
  • 20-29      reserved for local use (store/warehouse)
  • 30 -37     France
  • 400-440  Germany
  • 45            Japan
  • 46            Russian Federation
  • 471          Taiwan
  • 474          Estonia
  • 475          Latvia
  • 477          Lithuania
  • 479          Sri Lanka
  • 480          Philippines
  • 482          Ukraine
  • 484          Moldova
  • 485          Armenia
  • 486          Georgia
  • 487          Kazakhstan
  • 489          Hong Kong
  • 49            Japan
  • 50            UK
  • 520          Greece
  • 528          Lebanon
  • 529          Cyprus
  • 531          Macedonia
  • 535          Malta
  • 539          Ireland
  • 54            Belgium & Luxembourg
  • 560          Portugal
  • 569          Iceland
  • 57            Danmark
  • 590          Poland
  • 594          Romania
  • 599          Hungary
  • 600-601  South Africa
  • 609          Mauritius
  • 611          Morocco
  • 613          Algeria
  • 619          Tunisia
  • 622          Egypt
  • 625          Jordan
  • 626          Iran
  • 64            Finland
  • 690-692  China
  • 70            Norway
  • 729          Israel
  • 73            Sweden
  • 740-745  Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama
  • 746          Republica Dominicana
  • 750          Mexico
  • 759          Venezuela
  • 76            Switzerland
  • 770          Colombia
  • 773          Uruguay
  • 775          Peru
  • 777          Bolivia
  • 779          Argentina
  • 780          Chile
  • 784          Paraguay
  • 785          Peru
  • 786          Ecuador
  • 789          Brazil
  • 80 -83      Italy
  • 84            Spain
  • 850          Cuba
  • 858          Slovakia
  • 859          Czech
  • 860          Yugoslavia
  • 869          Turkey
  • 87            Netherlands
  • 880          South Korea
  • 885          Thailand
  • 888          Singapore
  • 890          India
  • 893          Vietnam
  • 899          Indonesia
  • 90 -91     Austria
  • 93            Australia
  • 94            New Zealand
  • 955          Malaysia
  • 977          ISSN (International Standard Serial Number for periodicals)
  • 978          ISBN (International Standard Book Number)
  • 979          ISMN (International Standard Music Number)
  • 980          Refund receipts
  • 99            Coupons
Additional Links:

ISRC (International Standard Recording Code)

The IFPI build a code to distinguish each recorded and released track. Useful for radio archives and stations to find and/or identify a specific recording, RDS (Radio Data Service) and more. Maybe even useful for collectors and fans if in doubt if the track on sampler XY is the same as the original released version, or maybe a remix, or newly remastered. The system is quite new, so the advantage of this will take affect on later releases (If there ever will be new ZFT releases...). The numbering can be found on discs roughly from 1998 on.
Example:    ISRC FR - Z03 - 98 - 00212
When to label a track with new ISRC?
Re-mix: multiple recordings produced in the same recording session without any change in orchestration, arrangement or artist new ISRC per recording
Playing time changes new ISRC
Compilation without editing of individual tracks same ISRCs
Processing of historical recordings new ISRCs
Back catalogue new ISRC for first re-release
Recordings sold, distributed by agent(s) same ISRC

One of the first Zappa CDs released with this code is the Mystery Disc, which has US-RY2-98-00938 to 00972

Anyone knows a link to a list of all registrant codes? Mail me!

Additional Links:

[home]        [e-mail]        Created: 11.02.2001        

The big note: Like most of you I, too, have a regular life and have to go to work each day, so do not expect updates on a daily basis, nor a prompt reply to e-mails. Just give me a little bit of time. And then there´s always the question of violation of copyrights. If you think that my pages contain material which I´m not allowed to include because of its protected status, please drop me an e-mail, and I will remove the doubtful parts. On the other hand I regard all material within my pages as protected by copyright laws, too, so please ask before you steal. I´m sure we can work something out.