Label Coding & Spot The Difference #62 Masseys

Comments on #62 raised the question regarding label edge codes. Well with a bit of personal knowledge & some research, I can shed some light on this issue. Virtually all edge codes were produced by a machine supplied by the Sauven Marking Machine Company of London,known unsurprisingly as the Codedge system. this very basically comprised of an electric motor driving a drum bearing saws to mark the label edge. The labels being clamped to a table above the saws. Both label & saw position being adjustable to provide the edge codes.

Codes are read by using a simple plastic card, such as the one illustrated below

Codedge reader

Now providing you line up the large edge cut (register mark), the date can be calculated by adding up the numbers relating to cuts in each section. However you need to know the starting year as the year marks are able to span a 15 year period or it may be that certain machines were configured to use the lower red lines to give specific year data. Bearing in mind there were many possible configurations for the saw positions on the machine drum and that nearly every brewery of any size was using this system during the 1950/60’s, not only in the UK, but around the world.

Considering all of this & the fact that some brewers had their own specific system of codes again using the Codedge machine, we are not really much closer to unravelling the dates.

A British Patent was granted to Maurice Oswald Sauven for this machine in early 1950s and the company is still trading today, although the technology they offer has moved on. These machines are still available on the secondhand market though.  If you can add to this please post a reply as usual. Cheers Pete


  • Dale Adams

    Hi Pete
    This is really cool information!
    I have loads of ‘Codedge’ labels that I can’t wait to try the dating method as explained in your post.
    Dating of labels has always been something that I have been keen on an this is really a great tool for dating a lot of labels.
    Great research and many thanks for sharing! Another great benefit of this GREAT web site!

  • Fascinated by beer labels

    This is brilliant. Thank you. I wonder if this developed from the date coding used by Tennant Brothers of Sheffield, they had the numbers 1 2 4 8 16 at the base of their labels from the 1940s.

  • Pete S

    It is possible, but it looks as if it is just based on maths. perhaps you should ask Peter D or Des C for their views as mathematicians. How were their labels marked to denote what numbers were to be used for one specific label? The set of 5 numbers you quote would give date up to 31st and also cover months of year. Were they marked above & below the numbers? Perhaps they did not need to denote year, if turnover of products was quick.

  • Peter D

    I am going to go for 23rd August and 4 years after it started, which could have been 1950. Difficult to judge accurately because there is only one example to work with. Confident about the 23rd. 1 + 2 + 4 + 16 there is a gap so no 8. The first is a register mark.
    Guessing August as 8. The brewery would have kept accurate indications of the positioning of the notches so in the event of returns would know exactly the date of bottling. So my guess is 23rd August 1954.

  • Dale Adams

    Thanks Pete
    Totally cool! It is getting fantastic little bits of information like this on Codedge that really makes collecting labels exciting to me.
    Sometimes the excitement is the hunt, sometimes the finding of an elusive label, sometimes finding out a bit of obscure history about a brewery and sometimes it is finding out about something like Codedge!!!!!
    Your efforts on this one and its communication through the blog is much appreciated!!

  • Lesley Reed

    My dad Jim Reed worked for Reed And Davis which made the Codedge machines in Dalston east London. I still have my dad’s plastic card as illustrated here. I see the name codedge seems to have been patented now by a computer company.

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