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Colin Powell May Be The Most High-Profile Descendant Of The British Empire To Apply For An Official Scottish Coat Of Arms, But He's Part Of A Growing Trend...




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© Copyright 1996-2024

The American College of Heraldry

Many persons, unacquainted with heraldry, experience great difficulty in ascertaining their proper family-arms; and very often, no doubt, those who are fairly entitled to hereditary coat-armour are induced to assume any bearing belonging to their name, however mistaken, it may be, because it has been assigned to them by some coach painter, seal cutter, or engraver. By these means, there must be numerous instances in which gentlemen exhibit on their carriages, their seals and their plate, arms, with their crests and mottoes, which appertain to different families, although of the same name. This is, in fact, a very common abuse of an useful object, in this country; and an error into which persons entitled to hereditary coat-armour are too often inadvertently led.


Every man, therefore, who holds a respectable standing in society must be desirous not only of avoiding, in the first instance, mistakes of this nature; but of having them rectified, as speedily and as far as possible, after it shall be discovered that they have been actually committed. Because, independently of the consideration, that no person of reputable character would wish to use, and thereby probably perpetuate in his family, any armorial insignia, which might evidently appear to be the right of another - every abuse of this sort tends to diminish the usefulness of coat-armour, in an important particular: - it thus loses its aptitude to serve as a permanent badge of discrimination between families of different lineage bearing the same name; and it also ceases to be an useful mean of determining the rights of inheritable property, in cases of descent.

- William Barton, Esq., 1814

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The American College of Heraldry was established in 1972, with the aim of aiding in the study and perpetuation of heraldry in the United States and abroad.

For the first five decades of its existence, the College restricted registrations to American citizens or residents, as well as to others with significant personal or business connections in America. However, as of 1 January 2022, this policy was updated, to wit:


1.   The College accepts membership from anyone, American or otherwise.

2.   The College accepts the registration of arms of any member, American or International, as a fee-based additional benefit of membership under the following conditions:

a.    If the potential registrant is a citizen of a country with an Heraldic Authority, then their arms must be granted by that Authority. If they have not obtained arms from their own country's granting authority, they would be encouraged to straighten out that situation prior to contacting the College to register any armorial bearings.

b.    If the potential registrant is a citizen of a country without an Heraldic Authority, and they have ASSUMED arms, then the College would register their arms IF they join the College as members.

3.   If a person has legitimately granted arms from a recognized international Heraldic Authority and wishes to register them with the College - but does not wish to have membership - the College will still register such GRANTED arms.


Please visit our FAQ page before submitting any designs or questions.





Heraldry is at once both an art and a science. Its origins are rooted in the social and political structure which existed in Europe and the British Isles from about the year 1100 A.D. However, far from being an obsolete relic of a bygone era, heraldry has rather emerged as a vibrant and growing cultural form. Legitimate coats of arms are more widely used throughout the world today than ever before in history.


The notorious "Coat of arms for the Name of Jones, Smith, or whatever," purchasable by mail order or in one's local shopping mall, represents no more than improper and illegitimate armorial bearings.

A large and rapidly growing number of Americans rightfully bear coats of arms. Many of these were granted, certified, registered or otherwise recognized by armorial authorities abroad, and a sizable number of these have been registered by their owners with The American College of Heraldry. In addition, the College has assisted many persons in designing a new coat of arms for their use which is then properly registered and published. An increasing number of corporate bodies have also acquired coats of arms which they display on armorial flags and in place of the less distinctive logo which is so rapidly outdated in terms of artistic style and structure.


While Americans are usually fascinated by the beauty of heraldry, they are rarely familiar with its meaning and traditions and, therefore, often misunderstand and even abuse this rich cultural heritage. They seldom understand that a coat of arms is usually granted, certified, registered or otherwise recognized as belonging to one individual alone, and that only his direct descendants with proven lineage can be recognized as eligible to inherit the arms. Exceptions to this rule are rare. It is highly inappropriate for one to locate the arms of another person sharing the same surname, and to simply adopt and use these arms as one's own. In order to properly claim the right to existing arms, one should approach an office of arms offering genealogical proof of proper kinship, and to receive confirmation of the right to bear the arms and thus to be recognized by the heraldic community as legitimately bearing the arms.


The notorious "Coat of arms for the Name of Jones, Smith, or whatever," purchasable by mail order or in one's local shopping mall, represents no more than improper and illegitimate armorial bearings. To buy and bear these commercially produced arms is to claim for oneself a direct kinship which has only the most remote possibility of validity, and is thereby to deny one's own legitimate and rightful line of descent. Such infraction of armorial regulation and custom constitutes a flagrant abuse of arms which no knowledgeable and honorable person would intentionally commit.


Sadly, most of the heraldic abuse in this country is done by honest, well-meaning persons. They greatly admire the heraldic tradition, but in their desire to participate in that tradition they inadvertently abuse heraldic arms due to their lack of familiarity with heraldic regulations and customs. While such armorial abuse does not apparently violate state or federal statute in this country at this time, still to usurp the use of another person's coat of arms is highly improper and is a dishonest practice. Such conduct disregards the regulations of all recognized heraldry and violates the rights of the legitimate owners of the arms.



Or, "Why should I bother paying you to 'register' armorial bearings?"




As an update to our members, and potential registrants, we provide here current costs, comparing the cost of REGISTRATION with our own organization versus receiving a GRANT of Arms from an international body (e.g. The College of Arms [England], The Court of The Lord Lyon [Scotland], etc.). We are certainly not downplaying the significance or importance of an actual GRANT of Arms, but one must really take under consideration the cost of the "product" received versus (essentially) the same item (a frameable piece of paper, published and recorded, with the ability to pass same down to all future generations).


“I understand what the College does. How much does a Registration of Arms cost?”

Currently, the total fee for REGISTRATION of Arms with our organization – whether one wishes to merely register Arms granted by another legitimate heraldic authority, or chooses to have the College aid in the design and execution of wholly new Arms – is US$395, payable to The American College of Heraldry, whether by PayPal, credit card, personal check, or money order. This includes a color certificate of the REGISTRATION of Arms, as well as a Black & White line art drawing suitable for use on stationery, etc., by the armiger. On request, we can also supply a Black & White TIF file, as well as a Color JPG, of the registered Arms.

Further, the Arms would appear in the College’s quarterly, The Armiger’s News, as well as a listing on the College's index of all issues of that same publication to include Registration dates (along with all eligible descendants). Details on REGISTRATION fees may be found on the College's website under CURRENT FEES.

As to the cost of a REGISTRATION with our organization, as opposed to a GRANT received from one of the international granting bodies, here is a breakdown of current costs (as of 1 January 2021) from the College of Arms' [UK] website:

  • Personal GRANT of Arms and Crest are £8,050 (US$10,067) - The American College of Heraldry helps design and registers the same for US$395
  • Similar GRANT of Arms and Crest to an impersonal but non-profit making body, £16,455 (US$20,581) - The American College of Heraldry helps design and registers the same for US$395 - no upcharge, unless supporters are added
  • GRANT of Arms to a commercial company, £24,510 (US$30,656) - The American College of Heraldry helps design and registers the same for US$395 - no upcharge, unless supporters are added
  • When a GRANT of Arms includes the Grant of a Badge or (to eligible grantees) Supporters, or the exemplification of a standard, a further fee is payable - The American College of Heraldry does not register badges
  • A special reduced fee of £9,500 (US$11,882) has been introduced for parish, town and community councils, to cover the GRANT of Arms alone, without crest - The American College of Heraldry helps design and registers the same for US$395 – no upcharge, unless supporters are added

The Court of The Lord Lyon also publishes their fees (in much greater detail, including fees for specific "additaments"). For example, the cost of a Patent of Arms for an Individual, with Crest, is £2,825 (US$3,341). The entire listing (as of May 2019) may be seen HERE.


Currency conversions based on rate of exchange 11 May 2023. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact The Executive Director at


Original artwork of the American College of Heraldry's Armorial Bearings illustration shown in the navigation frame was painted by Andrew Stewart Jamieson. The background behind the content frame is courtesy of the late Richard McNamee Crossett.