How to Get UPC Barcodes for Your Products
Universal product codes -- UPCs -- are the 12-digit numbers that appear under the barcodes on many U.S. products. They are given out by GS1 US, a nonprofit group that sets standards for international commerce.
Here's how it works: Businesses pay to join GS1 US, and in exchange, it assigns each member its own identification number that appears as the first part of its UPC.
Companies usually need different UPC codes for each product they sell, even if it is just a different size. So companies will add more numbers to their GS1-issued identification code to identify each of their products. Each UPC can be used to produce a specific barcode that can then be printed out and attached to products or, ideally, incorporated into the product design so that it is easily scanned at the register.
GS1 US charges capacity-based membership fees that begin at $250, plus annual renewal fees starting at $50. The fees depend on the number of unique products you sell. A membership form can be filled out online on GS1's website, www.gs1us.org.
Another option: Some Internet-based companies, including BuyABarCode.com, now resell UPC codes for less than $100, so small companies don't have to pay to join GS1 themselves.
You will be paying for the use of that company's identification number -- not your own. That means your products' UPC will begin with another company's ID number. It can be a fine solution if you are cash-strapped or working with small or independent retailers -- if the retailers don't mind -- and just selling one or two products.
But it won't work if you're planning to sell through major retailers because they generally require product makers to have their own identification numbers.