are Torahs, tefillin and mezuzahs
Considerable time, expertise, effort, precision and expense are invested in the manufacture, writing, examination and assembly of Torahs, tefillin, mezuzahs and megillahs. The writing of a Torah is a 1 to 1-1/2 year project! That means proving income for, usually, a large family for that period of time plus materials ($4000ish), office space, sewing and examination charges and the rollers and cover. What would one pay an artist to paint a picture that took the same length of time? I bet it would cost a whole lot more!! A megillah requires a minimum of 2 weeks work and the expenses are approximately $200. All of a sudden $1000 for a megillah doesn't sound too expensive! The tefillin consist of 3 main parts. The parshiyos, parchments, alone require 2-3 days work (average 2 pairs each week), plus expenses (approximately $30). Taking into account the smaller size and the risk of invalidating all or part of it, is $300-500 for the parshiyos alone asking too much? Now figure in the batim, leather housing, and retzuos, straps, which require weeks, if not months to make, expenses, etc., so to pay $500 - $1000 for a pair of tefillin is a great buy! The mezuzah parchment takes 2-3 hours to complete. A full time sofer generally writes, on average, 2 mezuzahs each day. The parchment and examinations fees are $6- $10. $50 doesn't seem too unreasonable for a mezuzah then, eh? I bet almost any other product or service requiring a similar measure of expertise and investment would be considerably more expensive. If you are starting to agree with me then this short piece will have accomplished it purpose.
Now we can begin to understand why the cheap stuff on the market may actually not be kosher or questionably kosher- in order to sell it at such a low price the "sofer" must write very quickly (scribble?) and will undoubtedly show little concern for the halachah. He may not even bother to have his writing checked. In fact, the $ is likely such a sofer's sole interest otherwise he'd slow down and write properly (if he even knows how)! Additionally, for tefillin to be so inexpensive, the retzuos and batim must be very cheaply made and poor quality and thereby, minimally kosher.
Obviously, the fact that most people are unaware (or were until they had visited this website) with what is involved in the production of Torahs, tefillin, mezuzahs and megillahs and that the market is swamped with cheap, almost worthless "scribbles" and so called tefillin from unreliable sources, for which the average Jew assumes are kosher, has created this popular misnomer that more expensive tefillin and mezuzahs are exorbitantly priced and an unjustifiable investment, necessary for only the very pious and wealthy. Now we know that this is myth.
Why do prices vary so much?
Among quality, kosher tefillin, you may now be wondering why there is such a vast range in price. Prices are essentially based on the aesthetic appearance and the level of halachic perfection of the handwriting and the quality and level of halachic perfection of the batim. Another crucial yet indiscernible factor is the character and knowledge of the sofer, scribe, and those involved in the manufacture and assembly process. Therefore, prices vary significantly.