"And what about those of us who like to tinker and really cant afford the commercial stuff"
That's great! But don't tinker, know what you're doing.
That's the problem today, to many people are tinkering and only have enough information to be dangerous. As your next statement shows.
"its little more than a few batteries and alligator clips."
Actually, that's fairly accurate, however, without knowing what that "little more" is, you simply have an inferior to undesirable product.
That's like saying a nuclear bomb is little more than some plutonium, C4 and a few wires. Again, true that would make quite a radioactive mess, but would not yield what you are looking for. Nuclear vs dirty bomb.
As for pricing, one needs to replace the product sold and some still needs to go towards growth, labor, income, etc.
In today's current market income is not even a consideration for some.
The market is tough right now with everybody and their brother telling you all you need to make "Quality Colloidal Silver " is a couple of batteries, couple of wires and 2 pieces of silver. I even saw one post a few minutes ago on another site that recommended buying silver shot, melting it and skimming it as a source for the silver.
Not to mention the wonderful job Washington is doing with our economy.
Some people actually believe this garbage. Then they cry boo hoo I turned blue from Colloidal Silver .
Do you see my point? You need to "know" what you're doing and not just "think you know" what you're doing. Research, ask questions then do more research and so on.
I've been doing this for over 10 years and I am still learning stuff.
Meanwhile quality vendors are being constantly bombarded with blue people, deceptive consumer report campaigns, FDA, EPA and pharma, plus all the nut jobs that actually believe and propagate that junk.
In my opinion, a good price range is between $125.00 and say $225.00. Below this price you get what you pay for "in most cases" an inferior finished product. Above that you are probably wasting your money.
Again, in my opinion, current regulation at or below 1.5ma is the main consideration.
Anything else added is strictly for the convenience of the customer, like auto stirring - you can stir it manually, auto timer get a watch, etc. These features are nice, but if you want to be "frugal" rather than convenienced, you don't need them.
That being said, don't use price alone, research again. How does the machine work, does it regulate the current, how does it regulate the current, etc.
And if you're all excited because you made a yellow solution in just 30 minutes, you have junk. With a good machine, yellow takes well over 1.5 hrs and beyond the very lightest yellow is undesirable.
Another consideration might be what is supplied with the generator at no additional cost. Like mixing jar, storage bottle, shipping, etc.
Note: A resistor alone cannot provide adequate current regulation.