The Official MobyGames Software Collectables Condition Grading Scale

Version 1.04

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. It was authored by Jim Leonard, 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 meaning of the content is not changed.


Background:

The world of software collectibles 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 misrepresentation of an item's value. For example, in dealing with other collectors, a multitude of grading notations have already been 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", or "MobyScale", 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.


Item Breakdown:

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:

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.


Condition Grades:

The following are the official condition grades of the MobyGames Grading Scale. The possible conditions an item can be in are:

Each grade can also have a modifier associated with it:

Modifier examples:


Examples:

Long form: Ultima Underworld, open and used item in good condition:
Title: Ultima Underworld
Year: 1993
Platform: DOS
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
Daemonsgate: MS

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).


Frequently-Asked Questions:

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
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.

"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 Hlavaty, C.E. Forman, Lee Seitz, and others who provided suggestions that helped shape this scale.


Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe and the MobyScale:

(This is C.E. talking again, the description above is MobyGames'.)

The MobyScale is designed to be flexible enough to allow slightly different implementations based on individual collectors' needs. To keep the for-sale listings brief and easy to read, Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe employs the following abbreviated format of the MobyScale: [Package / Contents]. "Package" refers to the outer box, while "Contents" includes the disk, manual, props, reference cards, catalogs, anything normally included with the game. Both the package and contents are given an individual grade from the list above, since a perfect package can still have damaged props inside it. Below are some examples of how you will see the scale implemented in the Shoppe:

Enchanter, IBM PC. Folio package, complete. Outer folder has slight wear on the edges, crease along one side. Inner materials look unused. [F/NM]

In the above example, the game package itself is rated "Fine" (F) because of the two slight defects, while the props, being virtually untouched, are given a "Near Mint" (NM) rating.

Seastalker, Apple II. Shelf wear, missing Discovery Squad sticker. [VG/NM(IM)]

In this example, while the existing props are "Near Mint" (NM), the "Item Missing" (IM) notation is added to indicate that the package is not 100% complete. Also note that the "Very Good" (VG) grade for the package can be used to differentiate the amount of wear between this package and the Enchanter package above. "VG" is lower on the scale than "F", so the wear on the Seastalker package is more pronounced than on the Enchanter.

Shogun, IBM PC. Missing one of the 3.5" disks. Box is somewhat crushed. [G/F(C,IM)]

Here's a package that uses two modifiers: The first to indicate that the box is a bit crushed (C), the second to let you know about an important item that is missing (IM).

Starcross, Commodore 64. Missing ads, otherwise complete. [VG/VG(MMC)]

This package is complete as far as props are concerned, but doesn't have the ads / flyers / catalogs Infocom included in their packages. Since this is minor and doesn't detract anything from playing the game, the "Missing Minor Component" (MMC) modifier is used rather than "IM". Notice also that both the package and the props have some minor imperfections (both are rated "VG"). Since no specifics are given, assume normal wear from previous use.

Suspended, IBM PC. Props in plastic tray still wrapped. [F/MS]

Here's a Suspended package that has the box opened with just a bit of box wear ("F") and the props still untouched ("MS", Mint Sealed).

Trinity, Commodore. Package in great shape, but Trinity site map has large coffee stain. Sundial pieces have been punched out, but the border piece is still included. [NM/ED]

Here the package itself is unblemished, but the props inside aren't perfect. Since YOIS grades props as a single group, the final score is based on their cumulative defects. In this case, the punched-out sundial isn't all that bad, it just indicates this prop was used by the previous owner, so by itself it'd probably bring the score down from "NM" to "F" or "VG". However, that coffee stain on the map is pretty serious, dropping the whole score down to "ED".

Wishbringer, Apple, shrinkwrapped but box is dented in one corner. [VG(S)]

Here's what you'd call a "Very Good Sealed" package: It's shrinkwrapped, but we can't rate it "Mint Sealed" since it's not perfect. The "Sealed" (S) qualifier is used to indicate the presence of shrinkwrap, to set this package apart from a VG package that's opened. Note that, since the item has never been opened, no rating exists for the props. They can be assumed to be "MS" (Mint Sealed).

Witness, Amiga, shrinkwrapped. Wrap is torn in one corner, with slight wear. [F(T)]

Like the previous example, this game is also sealed, but here the wrap isn't perfect. In this case YOIS uses the "Torn Wrap" (T) modifier, instead of "S". Note that, while the wrap is torn a little, it's not enough for the package to have actually been opened. If that were the case, the materials inside would have a rating as well.

Zork I, Commodore. Set of loose props and disk. No box. [IM/VG]

Here's a game that's got all of the original props, but no outer box. The box can't be graded if it isn't even present. In cases like this, YOIS uses the "IM" notation as a place-holder for the box, while still grading the props. In a listing for a completely empty box, with no disk, manual, or props at all, the item would be filed under "loose props" where it would have a single rating based on the condition of the box.

Zork II, Atari 400/800, shrinkwrapped. [MS]

This last example shows a shrinkwrapped, mint package. Remember, "MS" is the best possible rating, meaning both shrinkwrapped and mint (and no defects in the wrap). A shrinkwrapped but dented or crushed package would be rated lower.

Because the MobyScale is intended to give brief, standardized overviews of an item's condition, the longer Shoppe descriptions will still be used to detail any specific flaws. If a grade less than "NM" is given, but no package damage is described, you can safely assume there is simple wear on the corners and/or edges of the box. Anything beyond this (cracks, bare patches, etc) will be noted in the description. Always feel welcome to ask for further clarification or scans of the item in question.

Similarly, most "MMC" notations will be explained in the full description, but if no details are given, you can assume that a catalog or reference card is the only thing absent. Again, please feel free to ask. In special cases where a trinket was included in only a limited number of game packages (for instance, the lapel pin in the first 5000 copies of BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception), an "IM" notation will not be included if that is the only item not present. Since such an item was not normally included in all packages, a package can still be considered complete without it (though of course packages that do include such items are much more desirable).

Single, loose game props and disks will have a single MobyScale rating, rather than any "IM" notations for the missing box / other props. In the case of disks, YOIS will use an "IM" notation to indicate a missing diskette sleeve, or one that's different than the one the disk originally came in. Unless the diskette itself is damaged, disks are graded primarily by the amount of wear or discoloration on the label.

For InvisiClues, the MobyScale rating applies to the condition of the booklet itself. YOIS will still be using the "% developed" notation to give a more approximate description of how many of the hints have been exposed. Wear on the cover, warped pages, etc., will bring the grade down, but the number of hints developed will not. The reason for this is that it's impossible to define distinct boundaries between "Fine", "Very Good", and "Good" when each hint book has its own different number of hints that may or may not be developed (and the percentages are approximate; I'm not about to sit down and calculate them with any precision). As a general rule, though, the more hints developed, the lower the overall condition of the book will tend to be. A rating of "NM" for InvisiClues will appear only if the booklet has no wear or damage and no hints at all developed.

YOIS follows the MobyScale quite literally: As a general rule, you won't see "Near Mint" or "Mint Sealed" packages very often. Anything more than a slight tear or crushed portion of a box will drop the grade down to an "ED". This doesn't necessarily mean you should avoid all items with such a grade. Read the descriptive text and decide for yourself if it's still something you'd want in your collection. Never hesitate to ask for scans illustrating the defects. As useful as the MobyScale may be, it's not intended as a substitute for looking at the package yourself.

Finally, please note that, while browsing the for-sale pages, you can bring up the MobyScale for quick reference by clicking on the package condition score for any game.


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