Pile of money in a homely gun 'bout nails it.
I have several M788s and only one was bought new (1978). All the others were bought used at good prices for the time and in mint condition, but for the last one.
That was a 243 (22" bbl, newer ones had shorter tubes) that I got about four years ago, for $300 at a gun shop. Butchered stock, otherwise in excellent condition w/Weaver bases. Some clean up and a $69 synthetic black Ramline stock, good to go. Already had a new spare magazine for it, so all in all, happy with that deal. And it shoots.
243 in fair shape , nicks in stock , missing blueing , has a cheaper scope, hardware store has one like this for 425.00
While I'm fond of M788s, price dictates whether or not buying one is a good move. I'd pass on one in that condition at that price.
Maybe 16 years ago I bought another one in 22-250 for $265 at a rural shop, that was also in mint condition, w/bases and a pro trigger job. Same time frame, similar M788s were priced far higher at local gun shows that I'd been to here at home. So that was a no-brainer.