Since the Ohio thing happened I thought I may pick one up as well. Hit a Gunshow this month and found 2. The one I bought was a 1977 444S with the endcap. Prob 95% condition. Paid $500 and I felt lucky to find one and pay that here in KS. He had a 1994 as well but it was in much worse condition for the same price. Thing is $600 now may be a bit high for you, but what about 5 years from now when they are $800+. Plus when is another gonna fall in your lap. Go get it!!!
PLUS!!!! Once you have the first 20 rounds of empty Remington 240gr brass at your feet. That $600 aint gonna hurt a bit. Trust me.
Seems like, $600.00 is a good price/deal these days for a excellent, or new condition 444s. Most of the very good used ones in this area for sale at shops (Northern Virginia) are around $700.00.
This is a newly acquired NIB 1995 444S, it has an inspectors card. This person did his job, back in the day, the rifle is flawless. Been looking for a good 444 for awhile found this at a local gun show for $600.00. More than I've ever paid for a Marlin, but it was well worth it. Plan to shoot it, and hunt it some, along with rifle came four boxes of loaded Hornady 265 flat points, which I understand is a good game load. The original price of the rifle was on the box, $351.00, those were the days.
I can't speak to American pricing. It would be a reasonable price in Canada. Folks are stepping up a bit. Mine is well worn and a good shooter and I would want at least 450. I personally place good value on basically NIB condition. It is far more valuable to me than a new Remlin lever in any style. Wave folding money under his nose and I bet you walk away with it for a bit less. I'd start at 500 and push a bit for 550, a fair price to me. Knowing the 444 so well that model and condition would be a real prize rifle to me.