I have some film I'm going through, about six banana boxes developed over the last 20 years mainly, getting them all finally scanned. I find that I am getting pretty good at dating the rolls that went unmarked, at least to the year, by using the color scheme of developing company, e.g., blue print envelopes next to other blue print envelopes from 1997 must mean these, too, were developed in 1997, or darn near. Also, I find further clues to season on some photos, so I can usually narrow it down for example to 1997 Spring <subjectname> which is a great start, and enough to make me happy.

However, I'm coming across some that are proving to be really confusing, or too time-consuming to date the ways I'm going about it...

Example Scenario for me I'm looking for resources, specifically on this one Costco envelope. I have about 20 of them, and they have dates and a number on the bottom, such as 028 03/11 002 39 273 R ADM $4.14 and I believe that's a date, March 2011. However, it would make more sense to me if that was actually backwards and read as November 2003 because that would make a lot more sense when it was processed.

There are other number sets all over this envelope, even more cryptic.

So that's my example.

Questions What kind of resources are out there for dating the film? e.g., can I look on the back of the print, and find some list on the internet that catalogs these details to date them, or are there other means?

Does anybody have any good links to share that might be helpful?

One complication Most envelopes don't have the numbers on them, mainly just the ones that are envelopes inside envelopes, if you are lucky enough to have kept those, which means this question might be dependent on some old goodie site, that archives scans of photo envelopes themselves. Might we get lucky?

Note I would be happy to provide scans of my envelopes for the community, if there's a destination for that type of thing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The date "03/11" is more likely to be day/month, or month/day. You should be able to find out which it is by looking for a number bigger than 12 (obviously). \$\endgroup\$
    – Mick
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 3:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since you're in the USA, it's more likely to be month/day. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mick
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 3:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another date format to consider is one involving a week number. I've seen year/week used before for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 5:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Direct examination can help - e.g. a scene w/ a '65 Chevy is no older than Sept 1964; Someone holding a magazine will date the photo to within a month. If there are people you know, you should be able to narrow the date to within a few years -- and then maybe match that to part of the datecode. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ A few thoughts about these long strings of numbers. They may include date, time, store, machine, batch information. If you could give a list of 10 or more such number sequences (preferably from the same store) you might learn a lot from the range of values (week number go to 52 or 53, etc) \$\endgroup\$
    – Floris
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


Does anybody have any good links to share that might be helpful?

Different service providers will likely have their own specific codes, so you should take them on a case-by-case basis. In each case, be sure to check the backs of any prints you might have: some processors print dates and other identifying information on the back of photos.

For your Costco example, I'd start by calling the customer support phone number listed on the Costco Photo web site. At the time of this writing, that number is 1-855-620-7579.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The coding may be quite similar between places that used the same series of machine, so it's quite possible that when you've cracked it for one source you'll understand quite a few. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 5:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @caleb These are two things that kinda go without saying, the dates arent on the back, hence why im asking. Yeah all those dates that are on the back are the rolls that i was able to easily pinpoint. And yeah, I dont want to call anyone, sounds like a hard road, and im a phone hater. Im looking for internet resources. I up-pointed the answer since its a valid answer, and time will tell if its all we got :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – blamb
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 7:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @blamb The page I linked above has a prominent Email Support button that'd probably work if you don't like telephones. The point is: ask the people who are most likely to know or have some chance at finding a definitive answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 12:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.