Archive for EAN

How do you register a barcode?

After you buy a barcode, the next steps are pretty simple. First, there are no formal comprehensive regional or world-wide database. Open sites like and are hobbyist sites that are really well done but contain a small fraction of barcodes and products, and, since it is an “open to the public” site, many times the barcode and product information can be inaccurate.

The true registration process is less formal than what people anticipate and is strictly between you and your retailers. When people purchase EAN or UPC barcodes from us, we provide a transfer of ownership (and certificate of authenticity) for the single or block of barcodes. We also send along an excel spreadsheet containing all of the numbers to make it easier to track which barcode goes with each of your products. The process of choosing which barcode goes with which product is completely arbitrary. Many people use the spreadsheet that I send to keep track of their barcode assignments.

Then, as you are about to launch a new product and sell it into stores, you assign one of the barcode numbers to the product and then convey the information about that product to your retailer.  If you are selling products that have variations (size, design, style, quantity, etc.), you will need to assign a different barcode number to each one of these items.

The retailer then inputs this into their inventory management system which is tied to their electronic point of sale systems.

The way it works is:
1. You tell the retailer about the product that is going into their store (description, price, barcode number)

2. The retailer enters the information into their database along with the starting inventory and usually the quantity where they plan on reordering your item(s).

3. Then, they sell the item…customer picks up the item in the store, takes it to the check stand, the item is scanned and the ‘cash register’ sends a query to the database. The database sends the item and pricing information to the ‘cash register’. At the same time the ‘cash register’ tells the database to remove the items purchased from inventory

Every retailer from your local hardware store to Amazon has their own ‘closed’ system. Every retailer has their own system based on the inventory management and accounting systems that they use.

Between UPC numbers (US and Canada) and EAN numbers (Europe, Australia, South America, Africa), there is the potential to have 100 Billion different numbers that can be used for barcodes.  (Not every series is used and some of the number series are reserved for internal use or coupons, but it’s still a massive number) Nobody wants to manage a database this large, so, everyone manages their own system that is relevant to their inventory.

When you purchase from Nationwide Barcode, you can sign up at UPC Barcodes .com, a site that will take your UPC Barcode and Product information and make it available  as part of an indexed data feed going to Google and Bing.

Learn how  to get your barcodes to show up on smart phones.

For musicians and video producers, Soundscan is an optional registration process.

All about Barcodes

Wherever you go, the grocery store, department store, on line at Amazon or your own refrigerator or pantry, you’ll find that everything that you purchase has a UPC barcode on it. Sometimes they are a little hard to find, but if you flip the package around, it’s there.

A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data. One of the first uses of barcodes was to label railroad cars, but they were not commercially successful until they were used to automate supermarket checkout systems, a task in which they have become almost universal.Systems such as RFID are attempting to change the standard, but the simplicity, universality and low cost of printed barcodes has limited the role of these other systems. It costs less than one-half of one cent to implement a printed barcode compared to seven to thirty cents to implement a passive RFID.*

George Joseph Laurer developed the Universal Product Code in 1973. As an engineer at IBM he was asked to develop the pattern used for the Universal Product Code (UPC-A Barcode).

GS1, which used to be called the Uniform Code Council (UCC) is the provider of UPC barcode prefixes. A company goes to the GS1, they purchase the prefix and then are responsible for the self-assignment of the identification numbers that go after the prefix.

The Barcode prefix, the first 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits, is called a UPC Barcode Prefix The company who has been assigned the UPC Barcode Prefix is responsible for the assignment of the next digits (making up a total of eleven digits) to their products.

Then, as the barcode number is designated, the last number is mathematically determined through an algebraic equation to create a checksum (check digit). This check digit is the final digit. When you join GS1, you get a prefix certificate along with your start-up package.

As far as we know, there are only a small handful of companies that require a copy of this certificate: Kroger’s, Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club and Macy’s.   The common denominator of these companies is that they are using the manufacturer prefix for their EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). Since this is how they make sure their vendors get paid,

Unless you are specifically going to do business with these three chains, you have the option of using a company that is legally able to subdivide their barcode prefix.

The GS1 maintains the database of Prefixes. It is our opinion that, although this database is conceptually a great idea, and has to be maintained, it is virtually ignored, unknown and unused.

Retailers input information from product data sheets filled out or given to them by their suppliers. The supplier gives the retailer the product information including the barcode based on the human readable numbers (12 digit UPC or 13 digit EAN)  and the retailer enters it into their point of sale system.

There are no formal centralized databases of product barcodes. Using the mathematical formula x=11×10 there are potentially 10 billion products that can be represented by UPC-A barcodes at any given time – 100 billion if you take add the extra digit on an EAN.

This, more than anything else, explains why there is no centralized database of products. No one has the bandwidth, energy or resources to catalog something this massive.

There is nothing programmed into a UPC or an EAN barcode. The bars only represent the number that is the barcode. The retailer associates these numbers with the product information. This information is pulled from the retailer’s database when a product is scanned.

You have two choices when you need to buy a barcode or block of barcodes. You purchase directly from the GS1 (They charge a minimum of $750.00 plus a yearly renewal fee) or you purchase from us or a company like Nationwide Barcode (  Nationwide Barcode and similar companies received their prefixes in the 90’s or early 2000’s

In 2002 GS1 attempted to codify the agreement with UPC Barcode prefix holders which included renewal fees. The codified agreement included rules that were in the form of a contract which included not being able to subdivide a barcode number. Prior to this, none of this existed.

The GS1 decided to change the way they were doing business. They started sending out renewal notices insisting that the prefix holders pay renewal fees and agree to the new terms and conditions.

Ultimately a class action suit was levied against the GS1 in the state ofWashingtonand the GS1 lost. All prefix owners prior to August 28, 2002 became exempt to the GS1’s renewal fees and new codified agreement.

Quoting the UCC Settlement web site: 

This Settlement provides that companies who became members of UCC before August 28, 2002, are not obligated to pay membership renewal fees to UCC to maintain membership as a condition for their use of Company Prefixes issued to them by UCC, or as a condition for Basic Membership Benefits as defined in the Class Settlement Agreement. Class members who have paid a renewal fee to UCC are entitled to compensation from a $3,895,000 settlement fund. The settlement also provides that the “licensing agreement,” which accompanied UCC renewal fee invoices, is null and void as to those who became members in UCC before August 28, 2002. ** 

Quoting George Laurer, “Often I am asked if a person that purchases a number from a subset seller will have legal problems in the future. Again, I am not a lawyer, but if the number was originally assigned to the seller by the UCC before August 2002, the answer is no problem.”****

Nationwide Barcode is one of the companies deemed legitimate by George Laurer.

The decision to go with the GS1 or Nationwide Barcode (or a company similar to Nationwide Barcode) is a matter of economies of scale. GS1 charges an upfront fee and a yearly renewal fee based upon the number  barcode numbers that you need along with your company’s revenue.

The more you make, the more the barcode prefix will cost you, and this amount can increase over time.

We believe that the GS1 is a great organization, they provide a tremendous service, however, for a small business with a limited budget, a Barcode Subdividing company makes the most sense.

* Text provided by Wikipedia and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. ** *** (page on George Laurer’s website) **** (George Laurer’s site)

1D Barcode Formats

There are many different types of One Dimensional Barcodes. This tutorial will show you many of the 1D Barcode Formats and will help you understand the differences. A 1D barcode or One Dimensional Barcode is called this because of how the barcode is read. A 1D barcode is read from side to side.

If have barcode numbers and you need help generating them, please go to this page – barcode graphics –  or contact us by phone or email.



Codabar Bar code
Originally developed by Pitney Bowes, the Codabar Barcode is used primarily by US Blood Banks, Photo Labs and Overnight Delivery Services. Codabar  can encode the numbers 0 through 9, the start/stop characters A, B, C, D, E, *, N or T. and the six symbols (-:.$/+).

 CODE 11 Barcode
Code 11 Barcode

Code 11 is a barcode symbology developed by Intermec in 1977. It is used primarily in telecommunications. The symbol can encode any length string consisting of the digits 0-9 and the dash character (-). One or more modulo-11 check digit(s) can be included.

CODE 128 Barcode
Code 128 Barcode

Code 128 is a very high-density barcode symbology. (A special version of it called GS1-128 is used extensively world wide in shipping and packaging industries.) It is used for alphanumeric or numeric-only barcodes. It can encode all 128 characters of ASCII and, by use of an extension character (FNC4), the Latin-1 characters defined in ISO/IEC 8859-1.

CODE 2 OF 5 – Interleaved
ITF or Interleaved two of five Barcode.
Interleaved 2 of 5 is a continuous two-width barcode symbology encoding digits. It is used commercially on 135 film and on cartons of some products, while the products inside are labeled with UPC or EAN.

CODE 39 Barcode

Code 39 Barcode
Code 39 (also known as Alpha39, Code 3 of 9, Code 3/9, Type 39, USS Code 39, or USD-3) is a variable length, discrete barcode symbology.

The Code 39 specification defines 43 characters, consisting of uppercase letters (A through Z), numeric digits (0 through 9) and a number of special characters (-, ., $, /, +, %, and space). An additional character (denoted ‘*’) is used for both start and stop delimiters.

One advantage of Code 39 is that since there is no need to generate a check digit, it can easily be integrated into existing printing system by adding a barcode font to the system or printer and then printing the raw data in that font.

Code 93 Barcode

Code 93 Barcode

Code 93 is a barcode symbology designed in 1982 by Intermec to provide a higher density and data security enhancement to Code 39. It is an alphanumeric, variable length symbology. Code 93 is used primarily by Canada Post to encode supplementary delivery information. Every symbol includes two check characters.

Code 93 is designed to encode 26 upper case letters, 10 digits and 7 special characters:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

-, ., $, /, +, %, SPACE.

Each Code 93 character is divided into nine modules and always has three bars and three spaces, thus the name. Each bar and space is from 1 to 4 modules wide.

In addition to 43 characters, Code 93 defines 5 special characters (including a start/stop character), which can be combined with other characters to unambiguously represent all 128 ASCII characters.

EAN 13 Barcode

EAN 13 Barcode

An EAN-13 barcode (originally European Article Number, but now renamed International Article Number) is a 13 digit (12 data and 1 check-digit) barcoding standard which is a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) system developed in the United States.[1] The EAN-13 barcode is defined by the standards organization GS1.

If you need an EAN 13 barcode, you can purchase these from our site:

EAN+ 2 Digit Barcode

EAN Barcode with 2 digit extension
This is a variant of the EAN barcode. This can be used for magazines where the last two numbers represent the volume or month of issue.

EAN 13 + 5 Digit Barcode

This is a variant of the EAN barcode. Often used for Greeting Cards and other items when the manufacturer or distributor is responsible for inventory tracking

EAN 8 Barcode

From wikipedia: An EAN-8 is a barcode and is derived from the longer European Article Number (EAN-13) code. It was introduced for use on small packages where an EAN-13 barcode would be too large; for example on cigarettes, pencils (though it is rarely used for pencils), and chewing gum packets.

EAN-8 barcodes may be used to encode GTIN-8s which are another set of product identifiers from the GS1 System. It begins with a 2- or 3-digit GS1 prefix (which is assigned to each national GS1 authority) 5- or 4-digit item reference element depending on the length of the GS1 prefix), and a checksum digit.


ISBN Barcode using EAN symbology

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin,for the booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith and others in 1966. (Wikipedia).

An ISBN barcode uses an EAN symbology.

 ISBN with 5 digit Add On.

Most ISBN graphics also include a 5 digit add on. The first barcode is the ISBN barcode (using an EAN symbology) and the second barcode to the right indicates the price of the book. The first number, 5, represents a dollar sign ($). The next four numbers are the price of the book.  In this exanple 51295 means that the book sells for $12.95. Since there are only 4 numbers after the 5, books that sell for more than $99.99 will be represented by 5999.

ISMN Barcode

The International Standard Music Number (ISMN) is a unique number for the identification of all notated music publications from all over the world, whether available for sale, hire or gratis–whether a part, a score, or an element in a multi-media kit.
The ISMN is designed to rationalize the processing and handling of notated music and the respective bibliographical data for publishing houses, the music trade and libraries.
As of 1 January 2008 the ISMN consists of 13 digits starting with 979-0
Existing 10-digit ISMNs are prefixed by 979-
The leading M- of the 10-digit ISMNs will be replaced by 0- (zero)
The resulting 13-digit number will be identical with the EAN-13 number that is currently encoded in the bar code
ISO Standard 10957 gives the basic rules of the ISMN system.
The thirteen-digit number allows a billion items each to carry a different number.

For Information about ISMN numbers go to:

ISSN Barcode

Used mainly throughout Europe, The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)  identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials.

The ISSN is a numeric code which is used as an identifier: it has no signification in itself and does not contain in itself any information referring to the origin or contents of the publication.

The ISSN takes the form of the acronym ISSN followed by two groups of four digits, separated by a hyphen. The eighth character is a control digit calculated according to a modulo 11 algorithm on the basis of the 7 preceding digits; this eighth control character may be an “X” if the result of the computing is equal to “10”, in order to avoid any ambiguity.
The first 3 digits

 ITF 14 (GTIN 14)

The ITF14 is a 14 digit barcode used to mark the master shipping containers of products with a UPC identifier. It is based on the I2of5 barcode. ITF14 barcodes usually contain a top and bottom bar (sometimes rectangle) called the Bearers bar. These bars make sure that the barcode is read completely. The first number is typically an arbitrary number between 0 and 7, the next number is a zero, the following 11 numbers are the first 11 numbers on a UPC barcode and the last number is a check digit.


LOGMARS (Logistics Applications of Automated Marking and Reading Symbols) is a special application of Code 39 used by the U.S. Department of Defense and is governed by Military Standard MIL-STD-1189B.

MSI Barcodes

MSI (also known as Modified Plessey) is a barcode symbology developed by the MSI Data Corporation, based on the original Plessey Code symbology. It is a continuous symbology that is not self-checking. MSI is used primarily for inventory control, marking storage containers and shelves in warehouse environments.

Pharmacode Barcode

Pharmacode, also known as Pharmaceutical Binary Code, is a barcode standard, used in the pharmaceutical industry as a packing control system. It is designed to be readable despite printing errors. It can be printed in multiple colors as a check to ensure that the remainder of the packaging (which the pharmaceutical company must print to protect itself from legal liability) is correctly printed.

SSCC18 Barcode also known as UCC 128

This Symbology is also known as UPC-128 Shipping Container Code, Code 128 UPC Shipping Container Code, Serial Shipping Container Code, UCC-128, EAN-18, NVE (Nummer der Versandeinheit)

This is a special version of UCC/EAN-128, with Application Identifier (AI) = 00. It is used to identify shipping containers by a serial number.

SSCC18 Barcodes can be configured 3 different ways, no bearer bars, bearer bars top and bottom or bearer bars on all 4 sides.

UPC A (UPC 12)

UPC-A Barcodes are used for marking products sold in stores throughout the USA and Canada. The barcode is comprised of three groupongs of numbers, the manufacturer ID (the company who owns the barcode prefix) which is 6, 7, 8 or 9 digits in length, the balance of numbers totalling 11 digits and the final 12th number (Check Digit or Checksum).

UPC A with 2 Digit Extension

Often used for Magazines – the second barcode indicates month or edition.

UPC-A Barcode with 5 Digit Extension

Often used for Greeting Cards where the publisher takes responsibility for inventory management and stocking of product.


What’s the Difference between a UPC and EAN?

There are two components to a barcode graphic. The barcode graphic and the number beneath the bars.

EAN = 0012345678905
UPC = (0)012345678905 or 012345678905

The GS1, the original source for barcodes, has created the confusion between UPC (Universal Product Codes) and EAN (European Article Numbers also called International Article Numbers). The UPC-A barcode was the original format for product barcodes. As demand in Europe, Asia and Australia started growing, country codes were added. (We have a list of country codes on this site). US and Canada have a a country code of zero which is not printed under the barcode nor is it entered in US and Canadian Inventory and Point of Sale Databases.

If you look at the graphics above, you will see they are exactly the same. The width of the bars and the width of the spaces between the bars are exactly the same. The only major difference is the placement of the numbers below (human readable numbers) which are there only as a back-up in case the barcode doesn’t scan properly and the information has to be manually entered into the point of sale system

Taking this a step further, we have overlaid the UPC and the EAN graphics (symbologies) so you can see that the graphic is identical. The country code doesn’t appear beneath the barcode in a UPC since the GS1 didn’t grasp the importance of US and Canada indicating country codes. They felt that since the majority of products sold in both countries originate from importers, distributors or manufacturers in the US or Canada, they could forego the leading zero in the human readable numbers.

We still believe that if you are currently doing business in the United States and Canada exclusively, it is safer to order UPC barcodes for your products. Many retailers, especially smaller retailers may be using older accounting and inventory systems that only allow them to enter in 12 digit UPC numbers and not a 13 digit string. If this changes in the future, you can convert your 12 digit UPC to a 13 digit EAN by adding in the country code 0.  There is nothing on the horizon indicating that the US and Canada will ever switch over to EAN 13 barcodes.

Other countries are able to scan and read UPC barcodes.