If you are interested in attaining a similar sound to the legendary (read; very expensive ever since Art Dudley started hyping them) Thorens 124, you can still find a Lenco L75 (also L70, 76, 78) on ebay for under $300, with a few tweaks these can and do sound fantastic. Pop off the stock arm and find yourself a undervalued Ortofon as 212. Add to this a denon 103, and you will be approaching budget audio nirvana, lol.
There is a great community of of Lenco enthusiasts over at www.lencoheaven.net
that will get you all the info you might need.
Personally I have been having fun with Technics sp-10s as of late. If you take your time, one can be had for a modest price.