There is a switch setting that allows the tone arm to stop when it hits the run-off groove at the end of a record. That way if you fall asleep the record won't keep spinning and the stylus won't continue to grate on the record surface. You can either choose to turn this feature on or leave it off.
I have had mine since September and its still works very well. For the price I love mine, however if you want something that is better quality you will have to pay more. But for the price this turntable is very good, and I am still happy that I purchased it.
I have some pretty old records too, and as far as my experience goes I haven't had any damage done. It did make me a little nervous to take a chance, but I kind of prayed for the best and so far that's what I've gotten!
So to answer your question, no damage done on my end and I use mine regularly on my originals. I would say follow your gut. If it's worth the extra $20-50 for peace of mind and vinyl...? It's worked great for me.