have strayed far enough from the original intent of this thread, which is: Why the huge fluctuation in participation here at the Model Railroad Forums? Although high prices certainly could be cutting down on the amount of people involved in the hobby.
I don't want to get into the discussion of cost, as it depends on what any given individual thinks is expensive. Back in 1964, that $1.98 Blue Box kit, was equivalent to the prevailing wage of $2.00 / hour for an industrial worker. The paper route really didn't pay for much then either.