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How to Grade Collectible eBay Items

As an eBay buyer or seller, one of the keys to establishing the value of an item is knowing the item’s condition, typically referred to as the item’s grade. The following table lists the most common grading categories that collectors use.

Remember that grading is subjective. Mint to one person may be Very Good to another. Always ask a seller to define the terms used. Also, be aware that many amateur sellers may not really know the different definitions of grading and may arbitrarily add Mint or Excellent to their item descriptions.

Category (Also Known As) What It Means Example
Mint (M, Fine, Mint-In-Box [MIB], 10) A never-used collectible in perfect condition with complete packaging (including instructions, original attachments, tags, and so on) identical to how it appeared on the shelf in the original box. Grandma got a soup tureen as a wedding present, never opened it, and stuck it in her closet for the next 50 years.
Near Mint (NM, Near Fine, Like-New, 9) The collectible is perfect but no longer has the original packaging or the original packaging is less than perfect. Possibly used but must appear to be new. Grandma used the soup tureen on her 25th anniversary, washed it gently, and then put it back in the closet.
Excellent (EX, 8) Used, but barely. Excellent is just a small step under Near Mint, and many sellers mistakenly interchange the two, but Excellent can have very minor signs of wear. The wear must be a normal, desirable part of aging or so minor that it’s barely noticeable and visible only upon close inspection. Damage of any sort is not “very minor.” Wear or minor, normal factory flaws should be noted. (Factory flaws are small blemishes common at the time of manufacture — a tiny air bubble under paint, for example.) Grandma liked to ring in the New Year with a cup of soup for everyone.
Very Good (VG, 7) Looks very good but has defects, such as a minor chip or light color fading. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss that Grandma’s tureen survived the ’64 earthquake, as well as Uncle Bob’s infamous ladle episode.
Good (G, 6) Used with defects. More than a small amount of color loss, chips, cracks, tears, dents, abrasions, missing parts, and so on. Grandma had the ladies in the neighborhood over for soup and bingo every month.
Poor (P or G-, 5) Barely collectible, if at all. Severe damage or heavy use. Beyond repair. Grandma ran a soup kitchen.

The information in this table is used with permission from (and appreciation to) Lee Bernstein.

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