Grading Conventions                                                               Home Up


Unlike grading, rarity is a relative score that The Acaeum has assigned to the items we cover.  Items of rarity class 1 are not necessarily lying around in piles; they are simply the least-rare, comparatively, of the items profiled on this site.  Take note that most D&D items produced after the late 1980’s are NOT included here – and many are certainly more common than even a class-1.  Also, these scores will tend to fluctuate over time, and should be used as a general guide only.  The Rares Index lists all items with a rarity score of 4 or 5.

5:  The super-rare (and/or unique) items.  These items come up for auction infrequently, if at all.

4:  Very rare.

3:  Uncommon, borderline-"rare".

2:  Less common.

1:  Routinely available in auctions.  Includes most D&D items published after 1980, with a few exceptions.


Condition is subjective, but we encourage prospective sellers to grade their items harshly.  Better for a buyer to be pleasantly surprised by the condition.  Note:  On the Indexes, the presence of cellophane shrinkwrap (SW) will multiply the estimated value for that item by three to ten times (!), dependent on its overall condition.

Please also reference the How to Use This Site section and The Acaeum FAQ for further clarification.

Special thanks to Paul Tremiti for these grading definitions and the example scans.


click thumbnails to enlarge

Poor (PR):  These items have no real value and have flaws that render them completely undesirable and/or useless.  Very large pieces may be missing, the items may have fire damage, multiple pages ripped out (and lost), the cover removed, etc.  Except for extremely valuable items, there is no collectible value to a Poor item.  The Acaeum does not assign Estimated Values to the Poor condition.

Fair (FR):  Several large and significant flaws.  Pages may be detached, a module cover completely split, or the cover loose from a staple-bound book.  Large pieces may even be missing from the cover or a page (perhaps as large as ¼ the surface area).  There may be significant water damage, extensive soiling, extremely heavy creasing, large tears, etc.  The item is still complete (or mostly complete) and useable.

Good (GD):  Shows heavy wear, but is still solid.  A few large flaws plus several smaller flaws may be present.   Conversely, Good items may have one or two major flaws: spine splits up to half the length (typical of modules), several large and heavy creases, a small amount of water damage, heavy writing, multiple or large tears, a noticeable odor due to either “mustiness” or “smoke”, significant staple rust & staining, etc.  There may be several pieces of tape on the item.  On staple-bound books, the cover can be separated from the staples (staple pulls), and on perfect-bound books, some pages may be loose from the binding.  A Good item should be relatively solid and intact and still retain some basic appeal to a collector.

Very Good (VG):  The “average wear” grade.  Spines show stress and may be slightly frayed or have minor tears.  Module covers can have “splits” as long as 2” (5cm).  Corners are often rounded, creased, or frayed, and edges may show similar wear.  Other common flaws are “color fading”, small stains, small tears, and writing on interior pages (perhaps even some highlighting).  A slight warping and/or faint “musty odor” (usually from storage in a basement) may also be allowed.  Tape may have been used to “repair” the item, but it should be (at most) one or two small pieces.  A Very Good item can simply be an accumulation of several minor and moderate flaws or it may have very few minor flaws and one major detractor (such as a fold that goes the entire length of the cover, heavy rust on the staples, a page separated that was not designed to be “detachable”, a large spine split, or writing on the outer cover).

Fine (FN):  Many “high grade” items are actually in Fine condition.  At first glance, a Fine item may appear to be a higher grade, but on closer inspection flaws can be clearly seen.  There may be several smalls creases or even one slightly larger (1” or 2cm) crease.  The top/bottom of the spine may show some abrasion, perhaps even a small 1/8” (3mm) tear.  Other possible flaws include: several heavier spine stress lines (either vertical or horizontal), a “scuff” to the surface that removes some of the color, rust to the staples (though at least 75% should be rust free), a tiny tear or very small piece missing from a corner (no more than 1/16” or 1 ½ mm), or a few small stains.  Though inserts / maps may be detached and have some minor writing, they should still be intact (i.e. character sheets should not be “cut out”).  Often, Fine items simply have an greater accumulation of lesser flaws.

Very Fine (VF):  A few light creases may be present at an edge/corner or on the inner surface of the cover (such as when a “thumb” presses down on a module cover and creates semi-circular stress lines).  There should be no folds or hard creases.  Corners can have other wear such as slight “rounding” or “abrasion”.  On modules or staple-bound items, the edge of the spine may have some slight abrasions to the outer surface layer, though the spine itself it still strong and intact (this is a sometimes common occurrence from the cover being opened repeatedly).  For perfect-bound accessories, light vertical stress lines are more prominent (though not extensive).  Staples may have the slightest hint of rust, but should still be at least 90% rust free with no rust stains on the pages.  Maps / inserts may be detached -- there can be a few marks written on the these, but they should still be minor and not extensive (no highlighting or marker).  Again, judgment must be used as each item is unique.  Perhaps two corners may have tiny 1/16” creases at the extreme tips or there could be one very light ½” crease.

Near Mint (NM):  There may be a few light stress lines on the spine, but otherwise the spine is strong and intact.  Corners are sharp, but can have a little bit of “bumping” or other very minor wear.  In general, no creases should be present, though a slight “bend” that does not create a noticeable stress crease may be allowed.  The edges may have a few very tiny “bumps” or “nicks”.  A few light stress lines are acceptable on the surface, but they should NOT break the color.  Surface colors should be bright with at most a few “color flecks” or some very minimal “color fading” (as usually occurs along the spine).  Any spots of discoloration or staining would be extremely minor (no more than a few pencil-tip sized dots).  In addition, the inside booklet should be complete with no marks, no rust on the staples and all inserts/maps still attached.  At most, a few very light marks may be allowed – such as a pencil note next to a creature’s stats or (possibly) and small price written in pencil on the inside flyleaf (as from a used book store).  Even though, the above flaws are acceptable in Near Mint condition, an item should not contain any more than a few such defects. An accumulation of several of the above will likely drop the item down another grade.  Note: nearly all items described as "mint" in the marketplace are in fact Near Mint.  In keeping with this philosophy, we do not offer Estimated Values for any grade higher than Near Mint.

Mint (M):  A Mint item is perfect – the corners are sharp, edges keen and the spine/binding tight.  It looks not only straight off the press, but is completely free of flaws.  Mint items are extremely rare, especially anything from the 1980’s or earlier.  This grade should be used exceedingly carefully – odds are that even an item you might think is in Mint condition actually will have some minor flaws on closer inspection.  The Acaeum does not offer Estimated Values on the Mint condition.

Shrinkwrapped (SW):  Shrinkwrapping is not a grade, but an enhancement to an item's condition.  When denoting shrinkwrap, the actual condition of the item should also be stated (i.e., "VG/SW").  Only valid if the item is sealed in the original shrinkwrap, from the publishing company (post-publication shrinkwrapping by dealers or individuals, for the purpose of raising the price of an item, is NOT an acceptable -- or ethical -- practice).  If you know a copy has been re-shrinkwrapped, say so.  Assuming a "shrinkwrapped" item is Mint could be erroneous… corners may have become dinged, creases may be present in the spine (from bending), etc.  These deviations from Mint status should be stated as such.  Minor tears in the shrinkwrap are not necessarily degrading to the item’s value; after all, the shrinkwrap’s purpose for collectibility is not necessarily protection (shrinkwrap is flimsy and tears easily), but rather an assurance that the item has never been opened.

Mailing Covers (Dragon Magazine / Polyhedron):  Dragon Magazine, from at least issue #11 up (earliest that has been verified), and issues of Polyhedron from #13 up (the earliest verified), were mailed to subscribers in paper mailing covers.  Dragon Magazine mailers were originally a grayish color (with a line drawing of the Dragon #1 cover), then later switched to a plain brown wrapper; Polyhedron’s were always plain white.  Presence of this cover, in virtually any condition, can raise the value of that issue.  Early issues of both these magazines may have mailing labels affixed to the rear covers.  While not necessarily affecting value, presence of a label should be stated.

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