About Grading and Book Condition
(adapted from VINTAGE PAPERBACK COLLECTING - Third Edition. Black Ace Books.)
Vintage Paperback Grading
Grading terms can vary a lot between different dealers. Generally, FINE or MINT are the highest grades used to refer to a book that is as new, with no defects. The grades then range down, sometimes using "plus" and "minus" symbols to further describe which end of the grade the book may fall into. VG or VERY GOOD indicates a nice collectable book with several small-to-moderate defects. In general, when graded fairly, VG should represent a book in decent collectable condition, sufficient to meet the needs of most collectors without requiring an "upgrade". A book graded GOOD or lower is not considered collectable except, perhaps, as a "filler" copy within a collection until a better replacement can be found. Grades such as VG-, GOOD, FAIR, and POOR are mainly suitable as reading copies.
Vintage Paperback Condition
The nature of defects found in collectable paperbacks is varied. All defects result in lowering the grade down from and otherwise-fine book. Here are some common defects you might see mentioned in dealer catalogs:
These usually appear on book corners. At the extreme, they could tear, crease, and/or warp the book from cover to cover. A mild bump may appear as a very slight bend with loss of sheen to the cover near the point of impact.
CHIPS or NICKS
These often occur at the top or bottom of the spine. They refer to removal of a small area of color or of actual cover stock.
The removal of a triangular corner of the book.
CORNER CREASES, SPINE SPLITS and COVER TEARS
Most common on very thin books, this is a crack across the spine. It can be minor (barely visible) or harsh (in which case the crack may extend onto one or both covers).
DARKENING or FADING
These problems may occur to covers, spines and interior pages. Most commonly, spines are faded by sun exposure and interior pages become darkened (and brittle) with age.
FRONT COVER LIFT
This happens when books are bound too tightly, causing the cover to raise or curl up slightly.
GLASS or CUP RING MARKS
These are visible on the covers of books used for coasters. Sometimes accompanied by cigarette stains!
LAM LIFT or LAM PEEL
This refers to the thin clear film bonded (laminated) to the color image on the exterior of many early paperback books. As the books age and are rubbed against one another this lamination begins to peel back, fray or lift, at the book edges.
These are lengthwise creases on the spine or on the book covers adjacent to the spine. They result from flattening the book when it is opened to read.
This is a general term for a physical change made to a book by a publisher, distributor or bookseller to indicate that the book is non-returnable. These changes include rubber stamps (on covers or page edges), blind-emboss stamps, rounded and/or clipped corners, a neat sawcut on an edge, a punched-hole through the cover or marker stripes on the page edges.
This often reduces the gloss on the cover's surface without affecting the color of the image. An erasure can have the same effect on the surface.
These can be scratches made to the surface by a sharp implement. Edge scrapes occur when the book edge is dragged over another sharp edge creating a series of small scuffs that remove color.
This can mean anything from very slight dulling of covers (where the book was rubbed along a shelf or against another book), all the way to amore serious bruise removing some of the color layer.
The spine has been bent lengthwise so that, looking down at the book, this spine is not at right angles to the covers.
Discoloration or the actual removal of cover color by pulling off a price sticker. Try Ronsonol Lighter Fluid and a clean rag instead. Ronsonol has a naptha base. Many other solvents have an oil base which can leave a stain.
STORE STAMP or S/S
These often appear on front endpapers. This defect is more serious when it appears on the exteriors of covers.
TAPE REPAIRS, LOOSE PAGES and MISSING PAGES
Are self-explanatory. They should always be noted in a book's description.
Books which are bent or rippled. This can occur from mis-binding, poor storage or handling, or from water damage.
This is sometimes visible on covers and often on interior pages or page edges. Discoloration of tinted page edges sometimes results, as does warping.
May be on covers, spine or interior. Can be marker, ballpoint pen or pencil. May refer to obliteration of the original cover price as well as re-written cover prices, owner's signatures and underlining. Invisible writing (indentation) sometimes shows on the surface of books used as a writing surface.