<snip> sellers are asking 2 to 3 times what the 30 or 40 year old radios are worth
Robert - firstly congratulations for joining the ranks of Amateur Radio. Now for the bad news- The price of something has nothing to do with what it is worth. It has everything to do what someone (even if it is not you) will pay for it. A buddy may sell you a radio for less than he/she might get for it elsewhere, because you are a friend. But the HamFest vendor owes you no favors. Starting out in this hobby on a tight budget can be done, but is not easy, or without risks.
Here are some suggestions:
If you have not done so already, join the local ham club. If there are two in your area, join both. The yearly dues are a good investment not only in the hobby, but in meeting others who might know of a "deal" when one shows up. Very often well priced radios never get to the HamFest or the For Sale Forum because they exchanged hands at the local level. And you most likely will have the opportunity to see it work on the seller's desk before you ever unfold the cash from your pocket.
After you join the club(s) every time someone asks for some help putting up an antenna, tower, radial field - volunteer and show up. This is how you develop friends who are willing to do you a favor when they can.
Go to your clubs Field Day and show up early to set up and stay late to clean up - same reason as above.
Stay connected to other hams and you may find a bargain. But if you expect to find one with a guarantee at the HamFest you will be as disappointed as you are now.
Clint - W5CPT -