Well Pete, is that because new Hams have no affordable 50m and above , all mode transceiver averrable for them to buy ?
Our local hams were using FM rigs on simplex in contests during the 80s in great numbers. They got on the air, and worked
what they could.
Many contest stations had an FM station just to take advantage of the extra contacts that mode afforded.
If anything, rigs are cheaper today then they were twenty
or thirty years ago, inflation adjusted. I can remember when at least 30 members of our local FM repeater club would
get on the air for the major VHF contacts. The interest isn't there these days.
It probably makes a lot more sense to buy a HF rig with UHF/VHF coverage, if money is the issue. I paid 300 for
a non-working FT-736R that was fully loaded, and nursed it back to health. Now that I am retired, I hope to have
more time to get back into the VHF contests if only to generate some local noise.