I just now looked to see what the Provenance feature cost and was a little taken aback at the $200/month charge in order to have access to Live Auction Provenance Viewer. As a collector and not a dealer I would have to be spending $50,000/year plus on auction purchases to make it worthwhile (4%). As you went North from there the percentage would of course decrease. I did not read the fine print to see if you could use it for one month during a particular auction or two at which you intended to make some large purchases. Thing is that as the number of higher dollar stamp purchases decreases the research becomes more doable timewise on ones own.
My own take is that the Provenance feature with live viewing would be at its best as a built-in part of using SAN and everyone had to pay a reasonable membership fee.
I doubt that the auction firms are a fan of this feature given the transparency it adds to a stamp that has data behind it.
Right now the only House that makes it easy to research within their own sales history is Siegel. Other than that you have to do some real legwork and cert research. Thanks to Don and Lorry the PSE database for the past ten years or so is much more user friendly and searchable. It is still a real pain in the butt to find a particular stamp and try and tie it back to a given sale.
We have all heard the "sold to the book" phrase. And magically it sometimes appears in the next auction of another firm. As noted several times in one year! Do you think it really sold or they did not get what they wanted or what they think they should get for the item? So the big question is - did it actually sell, or"set a price" for the newest edition of the catalogue. Or if it had a "reserved price" it should be noted, not hidden.
I also noted that as commissions continue to go up the prices of some items are coming down, even when catalogue value is consistant. So as profit driven companies go , why not try to push the catalogue prices up?
Then you hear, "thats the catalogue price". X amount is only fair, eh!
I've been using the extended features option on SAN for a couple of years, and the auction search tool has allowed me to manually discover the provenance of those stamps that I've been interested in. I think it has been a very worthwhile tool and worth the price when I first enrolled ($79.95/yr.). I notice that this is now the price of a basic subscription, and now the price of extended features has been raised to $425/yr. I'm happy that Tom Droege has promised not to raise prices on the extended features for those who keep their subscriptions current, but I feel sorry for new subscribers.
The new provenance feature is the equivalent of having these searches already done for you automatically, and stored. The cost with agent bidding and live viewer is $200/mo. The $100/mo. option only gives you provenance on your own purchases. At these prices, I really wonder how many subscribers will sign up, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see some other options offered in the future. As pointed out in this discussion, fully vetting any stamp should also include a careful search of the PF and PSE databases, because the provenance data will only include those certificates that have been revealed by the auction houses.
I agree that we don't know the background of whether the stamp really sold at the previous auction, but it does show that for some reason the stamp continues to be up for sale. I have noticed that some of the stamps opening bids were higher than the previous sell of only a few months which makes me believe that a game was being played trying to get more out of a stamp than what the market is willing. Seeing the info definitely made some of my decisions on bidding. I have enjoyed having that info for free currently, but don't think I would pay the asking price for the service.