I could care less about "cutlery for show." My knives, as well as other sharp implements, I own, are tools. They either perform as they are supposed to, or out they go. Yes I will admit that, as you say, there is a lot of garbage out there in the price range you mention, but knowing what to look for will help avoid it.
Like you, I too am a collector.., but more from a position of function than prestige. I am also aware of all of the types of steel from cheap stainless to full carbon. I especially miss the fine American cutlery companies that have disappeared over the last several decades, like Robeson Hammered, Harvard and Chicago Cutlery etc. CC made a particularly innovative stain resistant steel labeled "Special Steel" a high carbon, stainless mix, that were used mostly by the meat cutting and restaurant industries i.e. professional use. These industries could not risk using inferior tools and so chose knives that would hold up under constant use. Like many companies, in the USA, Chicago Cutlery sold out to some Asian buyer who wanted the name only and the resulting products bear little resemblance to the originals neither by form or function. or have disappeared altogether. BTW, few of the original CC knives were more expensive than $50 and could be found in hardware stores then, later, in fancy boutique department stores like NY's Fortunoffs. I often run across some of these brands in places like Goodwill or estate sales and I restore them, often giving them as gifts.
Here's to fine cutlery no matter the price.