Most modern ventriloquists do not buy their own, unless they can afford an expensive one.
An inexpensive ventriloquist dummy from a local art teacher will set you back around $20 – $30, with most models having a range of around $30-$40 (and they are usually very well restored). An inexpensive ventriloquist dummy may be worth around $15-$20 if you really look closely at it, and the quality of the construction and materials make you smile. For example the classic “A.J” by F.G.G. from 1881 with two legs, a dummy arm, three arms, a dummy leg and a mask is going for around $40 on eBay. This is an early vintage, the last used with the ventriloquist set.
A few ventriloquists do use real live animatronics. If you do, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find any. Most of the animatronics are built in a factory, and can only be delivered via air, so you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time on that date (and possibly late in the day, when many visitors are at work) to get your hands on one.
Another thing to note is that sometimes there’s a small number of ventriloquists from another town who want to take advantage of the cheap prices the townspeople are willing to pay. This can be a nice experience, if you see someone posing, and see their real life animatronics, too.
The above section deals with the most commonly seen, and most expensive ventriloquist dummy used today.
Some newer ventriloquists use real live animatronics, but this is usually only a small percentage of the sales, as people prefer to buy used toys.
The older ventriloquists still buy their own.
Ventriloquist dolls are relatively affordable, and come in many shapes and sizes. An affordable ventriloquist doll would likely set you back $10-25 which would include shipping on a doll. Some ventriloquists can also do “bought from a ventriloquist” deals. These can be worth up to $50 depending on how well you do on your quiz! They are very high end toys, usually made in Japan. They cost you more to put together than a dummy, but