The Official MobyGames Software Collectables Condition Grading Scale
The inevitable legal notice: This document and its contents is Copyright 2000-2004, MobyGames.com. For a current copy of this document, visit the MobyScale's permanent location at "http://www.oldskool.org/info/MobyScale". It was authored by Jim Leonard ([email protected]), based on a scale created by Hugh Falk, which in turn was based on a record album grading scale of unknown origin. Any questions, comments, or suggestions should be directed to the author. You are free to copy, translate, reformat, and retransmit this text as long as these notices are included and the content is left unchanged.
The world of software collectables is an emerging hobby that is slowly easing into the mainstream. However, being so new, there is no standard scale for grading the condition of an item, which can lead to the misrepresentation of an item's value. Before this grading scale was formed, a multitude of other grading notations were found: One list used a single rating for the entire item, another used a numerical rating for quality grades, yet another wildly overused the term "MINT!", etc. This lack of standardization can lead to confusion when trying to assess an item's value based solely on a textual description of the item. Which grading scale is the right one?
MobyGames.com believes there's a better way to do this, and has created a standard grading scale and specification for cataloging software for collection lists. This system is officially in place at MobyGames.com, but it is our hope that it is embraced by the collector community and used universally to describe item condition. Through widespread acceptance of this scale, we hope to eliminate misconceptions and confusion in the software collectable community. This document describes The Official MobyGames Software Collectables Condition Grading Scale and its use and application. For brevity, the condition grading scale will be abbreviated as "MobyGames Grading Scale" throughout the remainder of this text. Also included at the end of the document are some frequently-asked questions, and an example collector's list to illustrate the system in use.
Before describing the actual scale, it is important to define how the scale itself is used. A common practice for new collectors is to assess the overall quality of an item and give it a singular value. This may save the collector time, but creates confusion for other collectors attempting to view his list. This is because not everyone values certain aspects of an item the same. For example, one collector may value the condition of the box above all else, while another may value the manual and included trinkets/props/feelies higher than the box. Because of differing opinions of value, it is usually inappropriate to give items one overall grade.
The solution to this is to apply a grade to as many pieces of the item that are relevant. This creates more work, but is the only way to ensure accuracy and avoid unintentionally misleading people who read your lists. For example, the most common pieces of a software collectable are:
- Original Media
- Reference Sheet
- Registration Card
- Additional Items (listed individually)
The more pieces that are graded, the better the representation of the item. So while you can get away with a single grade for the entire item, a suggested minimum would be two grades: One for the Box/Packaging, and another for all other materials contained in that item.
Note: You can still use and advertise the MobyScale if you only list a single grade for the overall item -- but it is highly recommended that you provide at least two grades (usually one grade for the box, and another for its contents). Other collectors will thank you for it.
The following are the official condition grades of the MobyGames Grading Scale. The possible conditions an item can be in are:
- Mint Sealed (MS): No noticable defects and sealed in original factory or
store shrinkwrap or sticker. The best grade possible.
- Near Mint (NM): No noticable defects, but not sealed.
- Fine (F): One or two slight defects (small scratch, slight worn corner on
box, etc.) that prevent a Near Mint rating.
- Very Good (VG): More than one or two slight defects (slight crease in
manual, all corners slightly worn, etc.). Still in acceptable condition.
- Good (G): More severe defects (box slightly torn or crushed; noticable wear
on media, manual, or other materials). Acceptable only if the item is hard
to find or highly desired by the collector.
- Excess Defects (ED): Excessive and/or unusable defects (crushed, ripped, or
sheared box; torn manual pages; box or manual written on in marker, etc.).
Acceptable only if the item is wanted for non-collectable purposes (like
actually playing the game) or for "parts".
Each grade can also have a modifier associated with it:
- Sealed (S): Sealed with original factory (or store) shrinkwrap or sticker.
Not to be confused with a re-wrapped previously-opened box.
- Compressed (C): Package has been crushed or compressed.
- Torn Wrap (T): Sealed package has tears in the shrinkwrap.
- Item Missing (IM): Package is incomplete, missing one or more items from the
original distribution that detract from its gameplay or collectable value.
Examples of missing items would include the wishstone from Wishbringer, the
cloth map from Ultima 2, etc.
- Missing Minor Component (MMC): Package is missing a minor component. Minor
components are any included pieces that don't detract from the game playing
experience. Examples of minor components would include warranty or
registration cards, product catalogs, one of two identical items (like
pens), a sheet of graph paper from an otherwise complete pad, etc.
- Bad Media (BM): Media (diskette, CDROM, tape, etc.) is known to be bad or
Modifier examples: An unopened copy of a title in Fine condition would be called Fine, Sealed or F (S). A copy of Ultima 6 in Very Good condition but missing the moonstone would be called Very Good, Item Missing, or VG (IM). A package that misses Mint Sealed condition because the wrap is torn would be Near Mint, Torn Wrap or NM (T). A heavily-played, slightly beat-up copy of MULE that is missing the registration card and the diskettes have ceased to work would be Good, Missing Minor Components and Bad Media or G (MMC, BM).
Long form: Ultima Underworld, open and used item in good condition:
Title: Ultima Underworld
Box/Packaging: Very Good
Original Media: Fine
Manual: Very Good
Catalog: Near Mint
Reference Sheet: Very Good
Registration Card: Item Missing
Additional Items: Near Mint
Comments: Has "Best RPG of 1993" sticker on front box. Additional items are a cloth bag with metal "runes".
Short form, multiple items:
Tass Times in Tonetown (PC): Box G, Media F, Manual G, Registration Card ED (handwriting), "Newspaper" prop F
X-Car Experimental Racing (PC): Box MS
Ancient Land of Ys (PC): Box G, Media F, Manual G, Registration Card IM
Archon (C64): Box NM, Media NM, Manual VG, Registration Card NM
Abbreviated form, multiple items: (Legend is Box/Inside Materials)
Ancient Land of Ys: G/VG
Under a Killing Moon: VG/F
Pinball Construction Set: VG/G
Music Construction Set: VG/G
Dr. J and Larry Bird go One on One: NM/NM
Abbreviated form, multiple items with modifiers:
Ancient Land of Ys: G (C, MMC)
Pinball Construction Set: VG (MMC, BM)
Music Construction Set: F
Dr. J and Larry Bird go One on One: NM (T)
These are just suggested list templates; you are free to use whatever format you choose. The MobyGames Grading Scale is a specification, but you can implement that specification any way you like. Note that, for all forms suggested above, there was only one grade listed for Sealed items. Since the item was never opened, the condition of the contents cannot be determined (although you can make some assumptions from the condition of the box).
Q: Will the number of grades change?
A: No. Many hours of thought were put into what appreciable differing grades of condition could be (as related to software items). Unless an extremely strong and convincing argument is made, they will never change.
Q: Why only six grades?
A: More (or less) grades wouldn't describe an item's condition any better than the grades provided. We deliberately created granular grades for the best conditions and coarse grades (only two) for poor conditions. This was done to best serve the needs of collectors without overwhelming them. Also, the more grades you have, the more their implementation is subject to debate -- which is precisely what the MobyGames Grading Scale is meant to eliminate.
Q: Why isn't "Rare" on the grading scale?
A: "Rare" isn't an indication of condition; it's an indication of availability. If you'd like to help out with a new rarity guide, visit http://www.classicgaming.com/gotcha/ and follow the links to the CURIOUS scale.
Q: Can I add my own grades using this system? I've been using "Pristine" and "Good Plus" in my own lists and want to keep doing so.
A: No! That goes against the whole idea of standardizing condition grades; the purpose of the system is to map conditions to terms that everyone can universally use and agree upon. Adding your own terms deviates from the scale, and just confuses other collectors. If you add your own terms, you cannot advertise that you're utilizing the MobyGames Grading Scale.
Q: I have a few items where the box is okay but the shrinkwrap is in really poor condition, and I want to document that. How can I do that when the grades apply to the box?
A: The proper usage is to qualify the wrap after the main package grade. For example, a Mint Sealed package with dirty/yellowed/tattered/etc. wrap could be listed as "MS (wrap: G)". Many thanks to Alexander Zöller for the suggestion.
Acknowledgements and Addendum:
This grading scale is officially released to the software collectables community. Its use is highly encouraged, as long as it's not altered. Strict adherence to the scale is what makes it strong and useful; please don't deviate from or otherwise modify it.
Want to discuss software collectable issues with other collectors? Join the Software Collectables Mailing List! To subscribe, send email to "[email protected]" with a subject line of "subscribe". After joining, you can send email to the list by emailing "[email protected]". Replying to list messages also sends your reply to everyone on the list. Mailing list archives are kept on the web; the URL will be provided to you after you receive your first message from the list.
"The Official MobyGames Software Collectables Condition Grading Scale" is a mouthful, isn't it? :-) It's suggested that you merely tell other collectors, "I'm using the MobyScale."
Many thanks to Hugh Falk, Tom Hlavendy, C. E. Forman, Lee Seitz, and others who provided suggestions that helped shape this scale.