Metcard - Manufacturers and Designators

Page last modified/checked: Sunday, 6 October 2002
Most people have a curiosity about things which are presented, but not fully explained. So it was with the various designators which are found on the Metcards to date. However, it is with great pleasure that some relevant information regarding this previously unknown area can finally be presented.

A special edition of "AT Update" (Nov/Dec 1994) announced that the printing of the Metcards was to be done by Moore Business Systems. As it transpired, three companies appear to be involved in the initial production of the machine based Metcards: these being Control Systems Pty Ltd, Moore Business Systems, and an unidentified American manufacturer. Those with an interest in the designators will notice the three companies mentioned also correspond to the first three designators; viz- "C", "M" and "Blank". Both Control Systems and Moore produced the original Metcard design; the American company produced the three arrows design only. All pre-encoded Metcards were produced by Moore.

The Printing Process:

When the initial batches of Metcards were being produced, one set of printing plates was sufficient to maintain the output. As the numbers of tickets required increased, additional sets of plates were added. Using the original pre-encoded Metcards as a basis, the explanation is as follows: a set of printing plates, all identical, are fitted to a rotating drum and the tickets printed using this one drum - this is designator "M". When a larger quantity of tickets was required, another drum and identical set of printing plates was added to the machine - these were distinguished from the original drum and plates by being coded designator "MA". Subsequent additional drums and plates gave us the "MB" and "MC" designators. As a part of quality control (in case of errors or misprints), this was sufficient identification to distinguish which print drum was involved when a single design was being printed. When the Melbourne Events series came out, six different designs were used. Four designs were used on each of three drums utilizing the MA, MB and MC designators in the following manner: four designs were used on drum "MA'; two from "MA" and the two remaining designs were used on drum "MB", the opposite two designs from drums "MA" and "MB" became drum "MC". The first series of Melbourne Food was also produced in this manner. Further identification to distinguish individual plates on each drum was then provided on the second series of Melbourne Food designs when numbers were added thus the M A1, M A2 format evolved. Similarly, the machine based designators evolved from M to Ma1 to M-a1 to M A1, etc.


When a design was proposed, it went through the normal process of appraisal, alteration, re-design etc until an approved, acceptable design was reached. This design was transferred to film and sent to the printer for production. The different style of designator (Ma, M-a, M A, MA) was used as an identification of the person who set the final design - thus Ma was one person, M-a was a different person, etc. This is why there are a variety of styles of designator. The "C" designator appeared for a short time on the original design Metcards, but since then, all Metcards have featured the "M" designator and derivatives.
However, there are five exceptions known which do not follow this pattern:
  • The first was the original design Metcards which do not have a designator. These were produced by Moores.
  • The second involved the Melbourne Food bus only Cafe Food design which did not have a designator. This was the only design of the Melbourne Food series printed without a designator. Any others are definitely misprints. Again, a Moores product.
  • The third was the pre-encoded soccer (first series) which appeared with no designator.
  • The fourth was the 254 million original design bus-only designator "C"
  • Finally were the 254 and 255 million original design which appeared with the designators "S1" and "S2". These were produced by Spectron Pty Ltd, again, as an urgent bus only requirement.

Magnadata International Pty Ltd:

It appears the initial contract for the production of Metcards was for a five year period, as during March 2001, a new type of Metcard appeared featuring the designator "J". These were produced by Magnadata International, but as the designator "M" was already being used by Moores, the Magnadata issues were designated "J" which stands for Jenkins Pty Ltd - their agents in Australia. Magnadata are currently producing all machine and bus based Metcards along with the 2-hour, daily, weekly, monthly, 2 Hour x 10, 60 plus, rail+2 and short trip 10 pre-encoded Metcards. Moores continue to produce station issue student passes and a range of pre-encoded Metcards including student passes, adult yearlies, and "peripheral" (franchisee) issues such as the M>Train yearly, M>Tram CBD Park'n'Ride, Premium daily, etc; basically, the "non-core" range of tickets. The initial range of Magnadata Metcards were uncoated, but unconfirmed reports suggest the slurry magnetic strip was causing slippage and clogging of the validators. Whatever the reason, the latest Magnadata products have featured a coating (or "varnish") which has reportedly improved the reliability of their use in the validators.