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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. Note that the UPC-A and EAN-13 codes are valid worldwide, so products marked with a UPC-A code can be sold outside the USA. The UPC-A Code and the assignment of manufacturer ID numbers is administered by GS1.

UPC-E symmbol for small items

The UPC-E code is a compressed barcode which is intended for use on physically 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.  GS1 is very stingy when it comes to handing out manufacturer ID numbers that are rich in zeroes; these are reserved manufacturers of products which have a genuine need for the UPC-E symbol.  If you need a small symbol, tell GS1 when you apply for a manufacturer's ID number and be prepared to substantiate your need.

USA retailers required to scan EAN-13

January 1, 2005 is the date by which all retail scanning systems in the USA were required to accept the EAN-13 symbol as well as the standard UPC-A.

Structure of the UPC-A Code

UPC-A encodes 12 numeric digits. The first digit identifies the number system:

The next group of digits identifies the manufacturer. This number is assigned by GS1, and can be from 5 to 8 digits in length. The longer the manufacturer ID, the fewer digits available to the manufacturer for identifying individual products.

Manufacturer ID LengthItem ID Length

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)

2-Digit 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. The example above is for issue No. 3.

Audio and Video Recordings

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 (

Code Audio Recordings  Video Recordings
0 n/a n/a
1 12" LP or 12" single 12" CDV
2 CD, CD-ROM, CDI, VCD n/a
3 n/a      VHS
4 Cassette, Maxi-Cassette, Cassette Single n/a
6 n/a Laserdisc
7 7" single n/a
8 MiniDisc 8mm tape
9 DVD (all music formats)  DVD music video

Books are generally marked with Bookland EAN barcodes.

See Also:

AppNote 002: Calculating a UPC Barcode Checksum in Access Basic
AppNote 007: UPC-A Retail Barcodes for In-Store Use
AppNote 023: How to translate a UPC-E barcode to the full UPC-A equivalent
FAQ: When and how to get a barcode on your retail product or publication