I have to agree with SilverNeck20 about getting what you pay for. I am relatively new as well only playing 9 months (Wow has it been that long already??!! Getting to the point where I will no longer be able to call myself a newbee regardless of how green I still sound
At any rate not knowing any sax player for advice (and also not comming apon SOTW) I started off with a relatively inexpensive Alpine sax which is an Asian import. Starting with a meager budget, my rationale was to start off with inexpensive equipment and then trade up as I improve. In retrospect this probably wasn't the best approach but it seemed right at the time. I can't say that it was bad. It played pretty easy, maybe not the best tone. My concern was how well it would hold up over time and how easy it would be to get repaired. It did feel a little delicate like it could break easy compared to my instructors Conn. I started calling techs in my area who told me the horn is easily broken and they could not get parts for it. Additionally I found out that the keys were cast out of a pot metal called ZAMAC which makes them difficult to adjust without breaking.
So small up front cost might result in larger total life costs in the long run. After doing more research and inquiring heavily to the good folks here I was able to trade in my Alpine and get a 1970's Buescher Aristocrat. While this horn does not have the same quality of the Bueschers from 1950's and earlier, it has an established reputation of being a well build, solid, and decent sounding student horn. This fits the bill for me as I only play in the living room for my own enjoyment. This horn is identical to the Bundy of the same era which have the same reputation. It's definety not the prettiest horn but it plays great, sounds good to me (and my instructor) and I'm having a blast with it.
The other issue with the Alpine is that it had pretty much no trade in value so I had to add a little more on top to get the Buescher. If I did a little more research before buying, I probably may have been able to get a better horn still for the original cost of the Alpine plus the additional cost to trade for the Buescher. Still in all I did not have to break the bank to get a decent (IMHO) horn.
I also have to agree wih the cautions of Ebay. There are definitly good deals to be had but unless you really know what your bidding on it's definately a risk. IMHO it would be best to leave ebay to the folks who have a lot of experience with saxaphones and can spot the pitfalls.
So the take away from all this is:
1. Lowest purchase price may not be lowest overall cost of ownership in terms durability, routine maintenance and trade in value.
2. There are a lot of asian imports in the market and some can be quite a good value. However you need to know which one's are the good ones. A good guide is to search the make on SOTW and see what comes up. When I started searching for Alpine there was very little posted on that brand which lead me to believe it was not well known or established.
3. There are good deals to be had on ebay but unless you know what you are bidding on and what questions to ask you are at risk.
4. For the cost of a brand spanking new asian import you could probably find an older but still good playing horn from a known manufacturer with established quality.
5. Comming from a newcommer as well who is still asking lots of questions this forum is a gold mine of knowlege and experience. There's a lot of great folks here who are willing to share their thought and provide guidence. The fact that you are already inquiring puts you way ahead of me when I was starting out.
Good luck with your search and have fun!!