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Barcodes

This post is really just an informative post about how barcodes work, and what they can tell us about where a product is from. Since this blog is about my Pentel collection, I will be using Pentel barcodes, but this applies to most barcodes in general.

All Pentel pencils that I have seen have either a 12-digit or 13-digit barcode (there are other lengths of barcodes, but I am not going to cover those).

UPC-A Example
12-digit UPC-A (Universal Product Code version A) used in United States and Canada.

IAN-13 Example
13-digit IAN-13 (International Article Number) used in the rest of the world. This is sometimes referred to as EAN-13 (European Article Number) or JAN-13 (Japanese Article Number).

Barcodes can be divided into 3 parts (yes, it is actually more complicated than that, but for simplicity, this works). For the IAN-13 code, the first 7 digits are the assigned Company Prefix and for the UPC-A, it is the first 6 digits. The next 5 are assigned by the manufacturer as a unique identifier, and the last digit is a check digit.

What we are concerned with here is the 6 or 7-digit Company Prefix. This tells us who the manufacturing company is, or in this case, which of Pentel’s regional companies is the primary distribution point.

To find this information, you can go to http://gepir.gs1.org/index.php/search-by-gtin and enter the 12 or 13-digit barcode number, it will return the company associated with the Company Prefix. In some cases, it cannot find a record associated with that code, but will at least return the region it is associated with.

The chart below shows what is returned for an example product barcode from every region that Pentel has barcodes associated with P200 Sharps (that I have seen).

Barcode & Item Company Prefix Country Code Company
065921923739
P205BP2
P205 Black & White Pack
065921 CA Pentel Stationary of Canada Ltd.
5900 No. 2 Road
Unit 140
Richmond, BC V7C 4R9
072512044902
P205BP2-K6
P205 2-Pack
072512 US Pentel of America, Ltd.
2715 COLUMBIA ST
TORRANCE, CA 90503-3861
US
3474372050609
P205-GA
Carbon Black P205
3474372 FR EUROPENTEL SAS
43 RUE FRANCOIS DE TROY
BRY SUR MARNE 94360
FR
4902506304919
XP209-P
XP209 Kirari Pink Single Pack
4902506 JP ぺんてる(株)
TOKYO TO
CHUO KU
1038538
7610924040155
P205-WN
White (Blank Text) P205
7610924 CH This information is provided by: GS1 Switzerland
Response Code: 2 (No record found)
7898419160872
P205-FRPB
Ferrari Red P205
7898419 BR PENTEL DO BRASIL IMP EXP IND E COM LTDA
R DONA MARIA FIDELIS, , 130, PIRAPORINHA
R DONA MARIA FIDELIS, , 130, PIRAPORINHADIADEMA, SP 09950350
884851008244
P205M-CX
Metallic Blue P205
884851 US This information is provided by: GS1 US, INC.
Response Code: 2 (No record found)

As you can see two of the barcodes did not return company information, but did at least return the region they are associated with. This does not mean that these are bad numbers, it may be that Pentel for that region, just purchased a range of barcodes, instead of a Company Prefix.

What does this information tell us? Well, for example, the P205-GA Carbon Black pencil that is sold in a lot of places, such as https://www.jetpens.com/ (a US reseller of pencils from Japan), was not originally released by Pentel Japan, but actually by Pentel Europe in France. Does this really mean anything, probably not in reference to these pencils, but if you find a pencil with the barcode attached, you can at least have a starting point on where to possibly source the pencil.

If you are interested in learning more about this, here are links to a few Wikipedia articles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Product_Code
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Article_Number
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcode

Author:

I work in the Information Systems industry, but outside of that I am interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy and collect Pentel P200 Sharp Family Pencils.

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