A platinum record is a record that has sold over one million copies worldwide, or a particular, large, amount in a specific country or region. Both albums and singles can go platinum, but a platinum single is rare, at least in North America. In the scale of sales awards, it follows the gold record and precedes the diamond record.
Only in the United States and in a worldwide context does being certified platinum mean the record has sold one million copies. Other chart systems require different (usually smaller) numbers of sold copies for platinum status. Many European charts require 300,000 copies, and in Canada a mere 100,000 are required.
For example, the album Splendor Solis by the Canadian band The Tea Party was certified ten times platinum despite selling 'only' 1,000,000 copies. However, one would say that worldwide it went platinum, but not ten times platinum or even double-platinum.
Whichever way you slice it, though, a platinum record is a major achievement.
This writeup is copyright 2002-2003 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ .