Frequently asked questions for a GS1 certified barcode consultant

Frequently asked questions for a GS1 certified barcode consultant

Frequently asked questions for a GS1 certified barcode consultant

Back in January I did a Reddit IAMA called “IAmA GSI Certified Barcode Expert/Consultant here. Have some barcode questions for your startup? I can help – also with RFID”. This was a highly enlightening experience for me, and hopefully for everyone I answered questions for – I got a chance to find out what questions and misconceptions people have about barcodes and RFID, and they got questions answered – which hopefully helped with a project or job.

This post is intended to be a brief synopsis of some of the most common questions I’ve been asked in my role as a certified barcode consultant. Hopefully it helps even more people out there wondering, pondering, or maybe even needing immediate advice.

Questions & Answers

1. Can I make fake coupons?

Yes. You could use a barcode generator like the one at to generate a barcode, and then use those as your coupon / data.

Barcode used for packaging "Super Angry Distortion" (box version, on USB flash drive")

Fig. 1: Barcode used for packaging Super Angry Distortion (boxed, on USB flash drive)

2. Can I look up UPCs somewhere? Is there any central registrar?

Many consumer product barcodes are registered with GS1 (in a structure called a GTIN). If this is the case, you can use this tool to find the company:
This tool may bring up the product:
However, although you will find information on many consumer goods products in those resources, not all are registered. There is nothing stopping a company from generating their own barcodes for their internal applications/systems, and many times these are not registered.
Another possible source of product data is Outpan ( which is a mostly free and open database. Outpan allows both free registration and free API access.

3. Do I need to buy blocks of UPCs/GTINs from GS1, or are there third parties that will sell them to me?

There are third parties that sell them… If you need some GS1 compliant UPC barcodes, I recommend Nationwide Barcode. (Note/Protip: Be sure to check your end retailers don’t require you to have your own “GS1 Company Prefix” on every barcode. Although Nationwide Barcode will save you LOTS of money vs GS1 Membership prices, you may not be able to retail these barcodes in a few of your large retailers that carry this requirement)

Check out the price difference – Nationwide Barcode will give you 100 gs1 compliant barcodes for $44… 1000 gs1 compliant barcodes for $160… Or 10000 barcodes for only 500 dollars.

GS1 Membership fees
# of Items Needing a Barcode/GTIN Initial Fee Annual Renewal Fee
1 – 100 $750 $150
1 – 1,000 $2,500 $500
1 – 10,000 $6,500 $1,300
1 – 100,000 $10,500 $2,100


Note: Nationwide Barcode is also known to give deep discounts of 20% or more during sale periods.

QR Codes are a special barcode format that can carry large amounts of data

Fig. 2: QR Codes are a special barcode format that can carry large amounts of data

4. I sell a product that is individually labeled with a UPC (containing a GTIN). Can I label boxes, sent to distributors and containing only 10 items of that single product, with the same GTIN? Do I need another GTIN for the boxes?

You can use the same product GTIN for the boxes. This requires a small modification to the barcodes
You would use a barcode encoded with:

  • An “indicator digit” that specifies package count, followed by
  • The product GTIN

The GS1 General Spec has more information on how to implement this.

You could also opt to label each box count with a separate GTIN.

Thanks for reading!

That concludes my short list of the most common questions asked.  Be sure to watch out for my follow up article, which will include another list of common questions and answers.

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