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Magazine Grading

Probably the most misunderstood aspect of magazine collecting and the one that causes the most trouble and dissatisfaction is grading, or determining just how "nice" a magazine is. Most of this confusion can be attributed to the fact that there is no governing body supervising the activity, nor is there a clearly accepted set of guidelines on just what a certain term or grade means - unlike more established hobbies such as stamp or coin collecting. This has created a situation where each individual with a vested interest in selling what is in their possession can and often does create their own unique system. Very often this system will employ commonly-used terms, and nearly as often apply them incorrectly.
reprinted from Ken Ritchies website
If you can't find it here, chances are good Ken will have it

We do not use the term "Mint", because IMHO the criteria simply can't exist for a mint magazine. Our grading ranges from Reader copy on the one end, to Near Mint/NIB (New In Bag) on the other. NIB is generally applied to magazines dated 1988 and later, as NIB is not commonly found in anything prior to that time. The most popular grade for passive collectors and customers who just want to see one is V Good (Very Good). It is a nice copy that you would not be afraid to touch or even read! Yet, it would be an acceptable product to add to or 'fill in' your collection until a higher grade is available. Fine and NM (Near Mint) are generally the grade the serious collector or gift giver is looking for, although V Good can sometimes fill those needs as well.

Unlike most of the "grading" you may see on auction sites or elsewhere, there should be no allowance made for the age of the magazine. Too often, you see the description state "It looks MINT for being 40 years old!" and there is a water stain on the back from Uncle Joes beer bottle, or "It is in Good to Near Mint Condition". How is that possible? We try to be fair, and, if we are not sure, we grade down instead of up.

Reader: A Reader Copy is just what it sounds like. Well read, with obvious flaws. Some of these flaws may include small tears on the edges or fraying. The glossy shine may be slightly discolored from storage. Basically, it looks like a magazine that has been sitting around for awhile on the coffee table, and everyone takes a glance at it. The cover may have those dents from viewers who thumb through the pages. On the plus side, Reader copies are intact, and may even be graded as a fine, but may have a defect that disqualifies from being graded as "fine" (such as a printed name either on the cover or inside the book). A Reader Copy will have at least 4 minimal flaws.
Reader Sample

V Good: This is our abbreviation for Very Good. Probably the most popular grade. It will have minimal flaws such as creasing of the spine, maybe a bent corner or some yellowing of the pages in older magazines. In general, it looks good, and has no major defects, and, as is similiar with all grades, could maybe qualify as a fine/NM except for a disqualifying flaw. A V Good copy will most likely have 3 minimal flaws or one flaw that disqualifies it from being Fine
V Good Sample

Fine: The minimum Collector Grade. This grade contains minimal flaws, usually incurred during shipping, storage or any number of steps that occur during a magazines lifetime. The cover and back will look almost new (regardless of the year) and the bindings will be tight and non creased. Staples and pages should be tight, with no "play" in the pages. In this grade, corners should not be bent, nor should the edges curl. They may show slight signs of use. It is advised that you use the contact form to check further before you purchase this grade as to what flaw may exist that disqualifies it from our highest rating.
Fine Sample

VF/NM: Very Fine/Near Mint. No perceptible defects. Sharp corners and binding, glossy cover and white paper edges (if applicable). On older magazines, you feel like you shouldn't even touch them. This grade should look like you just purchased it off the newsstand. Any magazines in this grade would be an excellent addition to any collection. Again, the age of the magazine should not determine the class of grading. A Near Mint 1956 copy should look as good as a Near Mint 1990 copy. There is no allowance in our grading based on the age of the magazine. I recommend contacting us if you have any doubts about an "In Stock" magazine. We will photograph the issue for you if required, upload it to our server for you to peruse, and look VERY CLOSE at the magazine again, to insure that the grading is correct. The NM (Near Mint) is used primarily on post 1960 books and magazines. The ONLY perceptible difference between VF and NM is a small allowance for age. There are no flaws in NM. It would be rare to see an NM prior to 1980.
NM Sample

NIB: Our designation for New In Bag. These copies are still in the factory wrap (or in older magazines, the brown wrapper that they were shipping in then) or from our stock of direct shipped magazines. Our most obvious is the January 2000 issue (See Description for this product), which came in a silver bag, and has a completely different cover on the inside. This designation will not be shown as an option if it was not available, and is NOT A GRADE ABOVE NM. This is just a designation of a Near Mint product.

If you have any questions, please use the LIVE HELP or our Contact Form.