Comic Book Barcode Identification

Since the 1980s, retail comic books have contained UPC barcodes. In contrast to consumer items, a 2 or 5 digit additional barcode appears to the right of the 12-digit UPC barcode. The configuration has always been difficult due to shifting requirements within an expanding sector. Online content about comic book barcodes is either out of date or outright inaccurate, adding to the confusion.

UPC barcode numbers are not picked at random by a brand owner, but rather a string of numbers that correspond to a global standard to allow products to be sold globally. The data in a UPC barcode must contain a UPC (GS1) Company Prefix granted by GS1 to a specific brand, an Item Reference Number assigned by the brand owner, and a mathematically derived Check Digit to assure the authenticity and prevent duplicate UPC barcodes from being assigned. See sample:

Supplemental Periodic Information: 2 or 5 Digit Add-on

A two-digit additional barcode was included with the UPC-A in comic books, such as the Superman comic above. A unique title would be identified by the 12-digit UPC number. The two-digit add-on format mirrored the encoding pattern used by magazines and distinguished each issue of a given year.

2 Digit Add-on - Periodical supplemental data that identifies the issue of a given year.

  • Monthly magazines require issue codes 01 through 12
  • Weekly magazines require issue codes 01 through 53
  • Quarterly magazines use issue codes 01, 02, 03, and finally 04

Magazines & comics using 2-digit add-on periodic formats restart at 01 for each new year.

5 Digit Add-on

Many major distributors and databases adopted a 5-digit variation add-on barcode numbering structure. As previously noted, there is no set standard for this information, but many comic book publishers and distributors utilize the format shown below. Diamond Comics is one of the more well-known publishers of this system. Please keep in mind that their requirements are severely out of date, but the schema remains the same.

Supplemental data is comprised of 3 components: Issue, Cover Variant, Print Variant:

  • Issue of Current Year: First three digits of supplemental code
    • Quarterly comics - issue codes 001, 002, 003, and finally 004
    • Monthly comic - issue codes 001 through 012
    • Weekly comic -issue codes 001 through 053
  • Cover Variations indicated by the 4th digit of the supplemental code. Start with "1". Most companies only have a single cover so this digit is typically "1".
  • Printing Variations are indicated by the 5th digit of the supplemental code. Start with "1". Note: print variations depend on the different materials used. For some comics sold both direct (via mail) and in-store, the two options may have different material types. For example, there are lighter newspaper materials available as well as thicker paper options, which can also be glossy

Comic book publishers only need to obtain barcodes for issues for one year and will be able to reuse the barcodes every year IF there is not a change in cover or printing.

Example of Comic Book with UPC-A 5-Digit Supplemental

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