I too remember the SVT 40 rifles at less than $300 a copy in the early 90's. I guess they are still selling for that in the Dominion of Canada.
At the time I chose to purchase some Soviet SKS rifles, but was put off of the SVT 40 by reports that they "exploded." -- I have since come to suspect these reports as inaccurate.
I have since purchased a very nice example of the SVT40 for far more than I may have paid back in the 90's, and I am impressed by this rifle. It is probably my favorite plinking, casual, shooting iron. I am quite proud of the rifle, and it will be one of my last ones to sell.
If you have an opportunity to find a representative sample that you can inspect, and you have the means to buy it, I think you will be glad you did.