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Guitar Gear / Pedals 12-Point Precision Condition Grading Scale

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There are few things that annoy me more than inaccurate quality gradings (and pricing therefore) when buying a variety of items on various online marketplaces. Over the years I have acquired Vinyl (records), Japanese vinyl figures, art, and various gadgets and devices from all sorts of origination points - Most of Europe, North America, the Far East (China, Japan, South Korea + Singapore) and Australia + New Zealand. And standards of grading can vary significantly from one seller to another.


I fear much of this practice is just ignorant and inaccurate grading, but a fair chunk of it is fraudulent to a degree too. I am very careful in my acquisition process and rely on various follow-ups with individual vendors if needed and other means of triangulation / validation / category comparison - which means that I have seldom been caught out. But the unwary could be paying significantly over the odds, as well as receiving goods of a quality standard significantly below the level they should be. When purchasing anything you should check against as many sources as you can - original manufacturer, top-line dealers, distributors and retailers and the various second-hand marketplaces and buyer’s guides if available.


These days the 2 main global marketplaces I use most often are Ebay and - and both can suffer from incorrect grading. In the above visual there is one pedal incorrectly marked ’Very Good’ while another ’Good’ should probably more justifiably by marked as ’Fair’. Of course there is some degree of interpretation here - but generally you should be able to easily see via head-to-head comparison and using my below guidelines as to what is reasonably graded and therefore reasonably priced.

12-Point Accurate Condition Grading Scale

  1. Brand New [BN] - Exact same pristine condition as shipped from factory - unopened and untouched box and contents - shrink wrap and or seals still totally in place (Price = 100%) also [BNIB] - Brand New in Box
  2. Mint [M] - Packaging/box/case has been opened but product has stayed untouched - no fingerprints! (Price = 95%)
  3. Near Mint [NM] - Product has been out of box - possibly on display to a very minor degree, but is pretty much almost entirely untouched and definitely not demo’d or played in any way (Price = 85-95%)
  4. Excellent [E] - Product has been used to some slight degree but looks totally pristine in every way - no visible marks at all anywhere - to all intents and purposes ’like new’ (Price = 75-95%)
  5. Very Good [VG] - Product has been used and has some very slight signs of wear in the form of very minor - 1-2 mm scratches, scuffs OR marks (Price = 75-85%)
  6. B-Stock / Blems [BB] - Items that have blemishes or imperfections from the factory or have been returned by customers after little or no use - kind of covers ’Good’ to ’Very Good’ range (Price = 60-85%)
  7. Good [G] - Product has slightly more obvious signs of wear, more scuffs, marks AND scratches of a few mm’s in length, but otherwise performs and works perfectly well (Price = 60-70%)
  8. Fair [F] - Product has entirely obvious signs of wear yet mostly performs well, but with some noticeable imperfections to both sound / output and look (Price = 30-50%)
  9. Poor [P] - Product shows significant signs of wear and has imperfections in use and output, but still mostly works most of the time (Price = 20-30%)
  10. Non-Functional [NF] - Product does not work but is repairable (Price = 10-30%)
  11. Busted [BS] - Product does not work and cannot really be repaired by any reasonable means, but may contain usable parts (Price = <10%)
  12. Junk [J] - Product has no redeeming features at all beyond possible use as paperweight or door-stop (Price = <5%)

Final Thoughts

As with any fellow gear-head I dabble quite a bit in the second-hand market - most frequently as I am seeking discontinued products which are not accessible by any other means. I occasionally spot a ’holy grail’ item too - one of my active wishlist items which someone is selling in ’Excellent’ condition at a really decent price - which allows me to acquire said item at significantly below RRP value.


Bargains do come along quite frequently - but you must exercise caution too, and have a bit of luck on your side. If you hesitate unduly and spend too much time doing due diligence - someone else might get in there first and snatch that item away from you - this has happened to me on numerous occasions. Fortunately though I have built up my ’street knowledge’ over these years and am getting increasingly better at spotting a bargain and making the right move within the appropriate timescales.


I do find it strange that there can be such a significant variance how different retailers use entirely different scales of grading, and apply and enforce them somewhat haphazardly. This is in part why I have composed my above 12 Point Scale - with a view to educating and informing consumers, and in an attempt to get more consistency from retailers.


Considering how many gear-makers there are in the world and the fact that only a relatively small proportion of that gets into regular retail channels in your own domestic country - it stands to reason that you might need to use quite a bit to get hold of items your local, national and even near International retailers don’t stock. For myself this means usually checking Andertons, GAK and Joe’s Pedals first - then other UK retailers, then the German ones - Thomann, Music-Productiv and Effekt Boutique, then and Ebay. I also check the original manufacturer’s site too, as prices are often listed there also - and all cross-referencing will help you reach the correct decision on a particular price point.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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