If you intend to use your bar-code labels for in-house asset or inventory management, then you don't have to worry about specific symbology standards; you can use whatever tracking system works best for you. As long as the variable data codes are easily scanable and call up the appropriate info in your database, you're fine.
Bar-code stickers for retail items are different: they must follow specific GS1 standards, which vary according to the type of product sold, where in the world it's sold, and (to some extent) its size (see our Bar-Code Pointers page for further details). Before Etiquette Systems can print your custom bar-code labels, you'll have to purchase the appropriate series of retail bar-code numbers and provide them to us.
Please note: We do NOT issue bar-code numbers/values, nor do we offer bar-code verification, certification, compliance testing, or general bar-code consulting.
However, in the following sections, we'll tell you how to acquire these bar-code label services from other providers.
How to Obtain Bar-Codes
If you're still at the stage where you need to obtain and register your bar-codes, then it's best to directly contact the organization that assigns them. For UPC/EAN retail codes (as well as Code 128, GS1 Databar, and SSCC-18), that would be GS1-US or GS1. You'll have to become a member to obtain your codes, but when you do, you'll have a licensed set reserved exclusively for your use.
These sites can also help you get started with obtaining both GS1 membership and your retail bar-codes:
Books require International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), which are handled by the Bowker ISBN Number Agency in the U.S. Here's their web address:
The Library of Congress's U.S. ISSN Center offers free International Standard Serial Numbering (ISSN) bar-codes for serial publications like magazines:
Once you've obtained your bar-code numbers, it's your responsibility to send them to your retailers, along with the proper Product Information Form. The retailers will then enter the data into their systems, so the price and other relevant info will pop up automatically when the bar-code labels are scanned.
How to Get Your Bar-Codes Certified
Before you send your bar-code labels out into the world, you should get them certified to ensure that the codes have been implemented properly and conform to the appropriate standards. This is especially important with UPC/EAN codes, since some retailers can and will fine you if your bar-code labels aren't compliant.
GS1-US maintains a list of third-party certification providers that have been accredited by the GS1 Solution Partners program. We recommend you consider these Solution Partners first, since they must meet very rigorous standards to even belong to the program. Start the certification process here:
Bar Code Verification
As a final check, you should also verify the scanability of your custom bar-code labels before the products are distributed, to ensure that each and every one passes muster. In any case, most retailers require a Final Certificate of Compliance before they'll accept a bar-code, specifying that it meets a certain "grade" level and thus fulfills the GS1 standards. Elements checked during bar-code verification include:
- Check-digit calculation
- Edge contrast
- Height and width
- Quiet zone characteristics
- Symbol contrast
- Symbol structure
- Validity of the GS1-issued company prefix
Again, the best place to go for bar-code verification is GS1 itself:
These independent companies can also help you with bar-code label verification: