So you want to buy a barcode, but you are confused as to which type you require as you have found that barcodes come in many different shapes and sizes – some have lines, some have multiple squares and dots, some have numbers, some have letters, some have both. This page is intended to help demystify the barcodes types for our customers, and to explain a little about each so that you are not left in the dark. Although you are unlikely to come across some of the codes below, you can be assured that they are very much in use and play an important role in the transfer on information within the commercial and business sector.

EAN and UPC barcodes for retail

These are the most common types of barcodes in use today. They are used primarily for the monitoring and identification of retail products within the commercial sector. Almost all products that are sold in shops and stores around the world with have either an EAN or UPC barcode attached to them. All retail barcodes in use today need to have been originally issued through GS1 South Africa, or by an authorized reseller such as ourselves. These barcodes are either 12 or 13 digits long (UPC = 12; EAN = 13) and are made up of a collection of lines, bars and spaces, which when combined, form the completed code. When you buy barcodes for retail use, please remember that we offer the lowest prices in South Africa.

ITF-14 (box/carton/case) barcodes

Often known as carton or box barcodes, ITF-14 codes serve a vital function that is closely linked with EAN and UPC barcodes. When you are shipping a certain product in boxes, an ITF-14 barcode is pasted onto the outside of the box and, when scanned, indicates the quantity of products contained within each box. It also indicates what the EAN codes of the products inside are. This helps to speed up the shipping process significantly, by allowing the processing of groups of products, rather than having to scan each individual item.

QR codes for weblinks

QR codes arrived on the scene less than 5 years ago, but have seen a dramatic rise in their uptake as South African consumers and businesses have begun to move into the digital age. QR codes are used primarily to link a smart phone or smart devices to a specific website or web address. This could simply be the web address of a business or organisation, but increasingly we are seeing them link to more interesting and innovative web applications such as Snapscan, Apple Money, payment providers and many more. If you are a company and you haven’t got yourself a QR code yet, now is the time and they are Free!

Distribution or asset tags

Distribution or asset tags are used by South African companies to log and track their physical assets for the purposes of financial audits. These assets include things like office chairs, desks, cupboards, computers etc – in short, anything that belongs to a company that is not the product that they sell. Typically, the tags are designed to be tamper proof and long lasting and, as such, they are often made of aluminum, thick plastic or other tough materials. The barcode tags are bonded to the assets with strong chemical adhesives and should last for many years. They use a specific barcode type, known as Code 128, which is alphanumeric code comprising up to 24 numbers and digits. You can buy these barcodes and the accompanying aluminium tags from numerous supppliers throughout South Africa. Contact us if you would like a recommendation.

Ecological tags

These barcodes are used specifically for the labeling of plants and trees within a narrow academic field study. When combined with sophisticated sap flow monitoring equipment, the barcodes are able to provide for the quick identification and monitoring of multiple plant species within an enclosed study site. Although the use of eco tags is still in its infancy, there is lots of interest from universities and conservation bodies who see them as an important future tool to aid conservation efforts in South Africa.

Internal use barcodes

Internal use barcodes are used by single shops and stores which opt to run their own internal barcode databases, instead of the buying barcodes from a reseller or from GS1 South Africa. These barcodes can be printed in any format, from EAN to UPC to Code 18, and are simply used to help process sales within a closed retail environment. An example would be an florist, who has no interest in selling his flowers in any other stores, but still wants to take advantage of the convenience of barcodes for the monitory and tracking of stock. He would approach a barcode company, who would issue him with a selection of Internal Use Barcodes, which he could then use within the confines of his store. These barcodes cannot be used for any other purpose, and could not be used in regular retailers.

ISBN and ISSN barcodes for books and magazines

ISBN barcodes are used for all books and similar once-off publications, and are registered with the national library of South Africa. These barcodes are not issued by Gs1, but can still be used in all libraries and bookshops for the tracking of sales and monitoring of stock levels.

ISSN barcodes are use for recurring publications like magazines. The barcodes are supplied with a small variable code at the end of the barcode which alters according to each issue of the publication, while the rest of the barcode remains unchanged. You can buy barcodes for books and magazines from numerous suppliers around South Africa. Barcode Solutions, unfortunately, does not supply this service.