Barcode Basics >
Different Types of
Barcodes > UPC-A
UPC-A is used for
marking products which are sold at retail in the USA. The barcode identifies the
manufacturer and specific product so point-of- sale cash register systems can
automatically look up the price. The UPC-A Code and the assignment of manufacturer ID
numbers is controlled in the U.S.A. by the
Code Council located in Dayton, Ohio. If you need a manufacturer ID number, call them
at (937) 435-3870 and they will send you an application form. Their fax number is (937)
435-4749. The registration fee for a UPC is $750 for companies whose annual sales are $2
million or less. Fees rise proportionately for companies with annual sales greater than $2
At www.upcexpress.com they offer
single UPC numbers for $99... a small initial investment, compared with the Uniform Code
Council's $750 for 100 numbers ($7.50 each). Be sure to read the small print.
The UPC-E symbol for small items
The UPC-E code is a compressed barcode which is intended
for use on small items. Compression works by squeezing extra zeroes out of the
barcode and then automatically re-inserting them at the scanner. Only barcodes
containing zeroes are candidates for the UPC-E symbol. The Uniform Code Council is
very stingy when it comes to handing out manufacturer ID numbers with extra zeroes; these
are reserved for products which have a genuine need for the UPC-E symbol. If you
need a small symbol, tell the UCC when you apply for a manufacturer's ID number and be
prepared to substantiate your need.
USA retailers required to scan EAN-13 by 2005
The Uniform Code Council has announced that
January 1, 2005 will be the date by which all retail scanning systems in the USA must be
able to accept the EAN-13 symbol as well as the standard UPC-A.
This change will eliminate the need for manufacturers who export goods to the US and
Canada to double-label their products.
Most scanners sold as early as 1985 can auto-discriminate between these two codes,
so the hardware will generally not be an issue. The primary concern is that product
databases used by retailers will need to store 13 digits to accommodate all EAN/UCC
numbers; many database designs currently store only 11 digits (or 12 if the check digit is
included). In order to guard against any confusion between an existing UPC code and a
previously assigned EAN-13 code it is necessary to use all 13 digits as a lookup
key. If you are importing items to the USA market and your retailers insist that you
re-label with UPC-A barcodes, you might suggest to them that it would be a good idea to
work towards accepting the EAN-13 code; they will have to be ready when 2005
Existing US manufacturers will not have to obtain new numbers or redesign
packaging. After the changeover date, manufacturers may mark products exported to the USA
and Canada with their assigned EAN-13 numbers; there will be no requirement to obtain a
separate UPC registration number.
Structure of the UPC-A Code
UPC-A encodes 12 numeric digits. The first digit identifies the numbering system being
- 0: regular UPC codes
- 1: reserved
- 2: random weight items marked at the store
- 3: National Drug Code and National Health Related Items code
- 4: no format restrictions, for in-store use on non-food items
- 5: for use on coupons
- 6: reserved
- 7: regular UPC codes
- 8: reserved
- 9: reserved
The next group of 5 digits identifies the manufacturer. This number is assigned by the
Uniform Code Council (UCC). The next 5 digits identify the particular product and are
assigned by the manufacturer. The last digit is a Modulo 10 checksum.
Calculating the Checksum
The checksum is a Modulo 10 calculation.
1. Add the values of the digits in positions 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11.
2. Multiply this result by 3.
3. Add the values of the digits in positions 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.
4. Sum the results of steps 2 and 3.
5. The check character is the smallest number which, when added to the result in step 4,
produces a multiple of 10.
Example: Assume the barcode data = 01234567890
1. 0 + 2 + 4 + 6 + 8 + 0 = 20
2. 20 X 3 = 60
3. 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25
4. 60 + 25 = 85
5. 85 + X = 90 (next highest multiple of 10), therefore X = 5 (checksum)
Supplemental Codes for Periodicals
A UPC-A code may be augmented with a two-digit supplemental barcode to indicate the
issue number for a periodical. Weekly publications are generally numbered 1-52, while
semi-monthlies are numbered 1-24 and monthlies 1-12. Here is an example for issue No. 3:
Audio and Video Recordings
||12" LP or 12" single
||CD, CD-ROM, CDI, VCD
||Cassette, Maxi-Cassette, Cassette Single
||DVD (all music formats)
||DVD music video
Companies which produce recordings are assigned a 6-digit number. The final digit of
the company identification also serves as the first digit of the selection number, and can
be requested on the application to the Uniform Code Council. The next 4 digits encode the
rest of the selection number. The 11th digit indicates the type of recording medium; here
are the codes recommended by RIAA (www.riaa.org).
Books are generally marked with Bookland EAN barcodes.
Calculating a UPC Barcode Checksum in Access Basic
UPC-A Retail Barcodes for In-Store Use
AppNote 023: How to translate a
UPC-E barcode to the full UPC-A equivalent
FAQ: Barcoding retail
products: When and how to get a barcode on your
retail product or publication