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An Unofficial Guide to Grading Cassette Tapes

The Very Best of The Manhattan Transfer


In the past, oh, 24 months or so, there has been an increase in the interest and usage of cassette tapes. Like vinyl, the music format that most thought was long dead is in a state of arguable resurgence. With indie bands in the US and here in the Philippines releasing their albums in cassette tape format, this medium has garnered interest amongst the millennials.

At our Facebook group, Pinoy Tapeheads, where were queries in how cassette tapes are graded. Some asked if the Goldmine Grading Guide (G3)may be applied to cassette tapes. There’s really no direct answer to that question as G3 was really intended for use with vinyl records, not magnetic media like tapes.

We like to help out - especially in providing tidbits of (hopefully) wisdom that our Tapeheads can use. So, to...address the question of tape grading, we came up with the offering below. Please note that what you will read is nothing official nor did it come from some Standards Association or whatever. We just put our heads together to come up with what you will hopefully find useful. Please take what you will read as a grain of salt. Use them as a guide or not, we’re just happy you spent time reading what we came up with for you.



Mint - These are the sealed/unopened cassette tapes. No visible damage on the cellophane wrap.

Near mint (NM or M-) 100% perfect. No issues with the inlay, label, casing, reels, media, shell, tape head opening, pressure pad, tape guide and capstan & pinch roller openings.These are tapes that look, feel and sound like the cellophane wrap just came off the first time. Some may even have the cellophane wrap but with visible signs of distress. Cassette tapes that are NM should have no visible defects. The tape media should be near-perfect, with no visible marks of scuffs and folds. The inlay and label are near-perfect, with no hind of writing, tear or peeling. When played, the audio quality should be as good as when it was new. The tape mechanisms are also nearly perfect.

Excellent or Very Good Plus (E or VG+) - These cassette tapes show signs of use, including very light scuffs or scratches on the casing or the shell. The inlay shows signs of being pulled out, unfolded then put back in. The labels are show signs of fade. The metal on the pressure pad shows a tad hint of rust bud the pad itself remains near-pristine. The media of the tape has zero signs of fold or scruff marks. When played, there are no audible signs of dropouts and nearly zero loss in fidelity. Practically zero distortion.

Very Good -The cassette tape may show signs of frequent use. The folds on the inlay may show signs of near tear/split but are not torn nor split. Could also have visible signs of fade. Labels may have writings but has no signs of being peeled and could have visible signs of fade. The casing may have visible fracture lines but no breaks. The two parts of the casing do not fall off nor split. The shell has visible scuffs and marks. No squeaks coming from the feed and take-up reels. The media of the tape has no folds or scruff marks. The metal on the pressure pad may have minor rust spots but the pad itself is intact. When played, there may be an slight audible sign of loss in fidelity but no dropouts. Practically zero distortion.

Good - The cassette tape show clear visible signs of frequent use. The folds of the inlay may be torn but not fully and shows clear signs of fading. Labels has writing and may show signs of an attempted peel. The casing has a crack but not broken. The two signs of the casing may fall off or split. The shell has clear scruffs and marks. The metal on the pressure pad has clear signs of rust but the pad itself is still in good condition. There are minor squeaks coming from the feed and take-up reels. The media of the tape may have signs of being folded or scuffed but does not affect play in general. When played, there could be a negligible audible loss in fidelity.

Poor - The cassette tape shows either clear signs of frequent use or clear signs of it is was not well taken care off: peeled labels, torn/split/missing inlay, broken casing. The shell of the tape has cracks or splits that may compromise the integrity of the media. The metal of the pressure pad has rust, the pressure pad is damaged or the pressure pad is missing. There are very audible squeaks coming from the feed and take-up reels. The media of the tape has clear marks that it got folded or scuffed and is affecting the play. There are visible scruff marks on the tape media. When played, there is a significant loss fidelity, has drop-outs and/or has distortion. There are are clear, audible signs of a record-over.

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