UPCs - Universal Product Codes - are 8/11/12/14-digit numbered barcodes that appear on many products within the United States and Canada. There are five classes of UPC Barcodes: A/B/C/D/E. For the purposes of this guide, we will be describing UPC-A Barcodes, which contain 12-digits, and are the most widely-used UPC barcodes.
Fun Fact: The first commercial appearance of the UPC was at Marsh's Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. On June 26, 1974, Clyde Dawson pulled a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum out of his basket and it was scanned by Sharon Buchanan at 8:01 am. The pack of gum and the receipt are now on display in the Smithsonian Institution.
To get any kind of UPC Barcode, you must first obtain a unique GS1 Company Prefix by joining GS1 and paying an initial fee of $750 and then an annual maintenance fee of at least $150, depending on the number of unique products you sell. As stated below, however, you do not need to pay fees with GS1 / GS1-US for barcodes used for internal purposes. Here are GS1's ten steps to barcode implementation (you will be redirected to GS1's website):
Step 1: Get a GS1 Company Prefix
Step 2: Assign Numbers
Step 3: Select a Bar Code Printing Method
Step 4: Select a "Primary" Scanning Environment
Step 5: Select a Bar Code
Step 6: Pick a Bar Code Size
Step 7: Format the Bar Code Text
Step 8: Pick a Bar Code Color
Step 9: Pick the Bar Code Placement
Step 10: Build a Bar Code Quality Plan
If you only have one product you'd like to use a code for or if you would like to avoid the initial and annual fees, there are other options available. We recommend checking the links below to see why using a UPC reseller is legal and how you can get your own UPC.
You do not need to join or pay fees with GS1 / GS1-US for internal use within your organization, however, there are certain GS1 prefixes assigned specifically for internal use.