Mint - Unplayed. Looks new.
Near Mint - Shows no playing wear, but may have one or two very minor dings or scratches that indicate handling.
Excellent (EC) - Shows light playing wear, no extensive finish wear, no cracks or extensive repairs.
Very Good (VG) - May show more extensive wear or missing finish, well done minor repairs, but no structural repairs. + or - indicate the extent of such wear or repairs.
Good (GC) - Solid and playable. All repairs well executed. May have had extensive repairs, multiple repaired cracks, etc.
The use of "-" or "+" indicates an instrument is on the bottom or top end of the scale for that grade.
1) In lower grades, age may be considered. For example, weather checking which might downgrade a recent instrument would not necessarily do so on a 25 or 30 year old guitar.
2) Single specific defects on an otherwise higher grade instrument may be noted and the instrument graded accordingly. For example, "one three inch hairline crack in back, otherwise in excellent condition."
HSC - Hard Shell Case
SSC - Soft Shell Case
OHSC/OSSC - Original Case
New instruments are listed as such, and the term "with tags" means the instrument still has some of its original paperwork. I do not normally deal with instruments in less than "good" condition.
In general, factors considered in grading an instrument include originality, rarity, age, playability, cosmetic appearance and structural integrity. Grading is highly subjective and there are no standard criteria for judging a musical instrument. This is the reason I have both a detailed description and a photograph of the specific instrument I have for sale. I also encourge you to call me for an in-hand description of any instrument - in fact, I won't sell an instrument until we have talked on the phone. I believe that GOOD COMMUNICATIONS = NO SURPRISES. Hey, if I misdescribe an instrument to you, you are just going to send it back to me. I don't need that hassle and neither do you.