The grass is not always greener... I've been on both sides of the fence.
Some sample Bolens prices then and now:
1742625 Blade Shaft Assembly (common on all 80's and newer 42" - 54" mower decks) price in 2001 was $43.70 - current price is $169.73
1724029 Spindle Housing - 2001 was $38.23 - current price $87.13
1721409 Ignition Switch (common on the HT's) - 2001 was $31.68 - current is $67.00
It is pretty ridiculous.
Lawn & garden equipment parts is a tough market. With more and more stuff showing up on ebay and other sites for less than dealer cost, it absolutely cuts into the equipment dealers profits. It's near impossible to sell a $100 part, when you can find 10 of the same item on ebay for $20.00. Authorized dealers are typically required to stock a certain amount of parts per their dealership terms. It varies in different markets. It can be as little as $500 - to literally thousands $$$. The manufacturer (bean counters) sets the suggested retail price, and it is up to the dealer to sell the product at the price their market will allow. Many simply cannot sustain selling at a loss, even on older inventory. They have to maintain "real" value in their inventory stock. Lone gone are the days of 40-50% discounts for dealers. Most are now 15-25%, so many have to mark up another 10-15% on parts to make anything over cost to cover real overhead costs... taxes, financing, utilities, insurance, mortgage etc.
NLA NOS parts pricing can be tough to gauge - it becomes a supply vs demand issue. If the supply is very limited and demand is high, the price will reflect that. Most will just go to the last known suggested price.
When an individual can go to an auction or buy up old inventory for pennies on the dollar, anything made over that is an easy profit for most. Some of the stuff on ebay is priced way too high... but some others are too cheap (unless you're the buyer ).
When a part is still available new from the manufacturer and you have the exact same item, are you willing to sell it for less than you can replace it for?
Many eBay sellers, myself included, have to factor in eBay's ridiculous fees, PayPal fees and then shipping costs. If you sell something for Buy it now @ $3.00, offer free shipping and accept paypal - you'll make virtually nothing - unless you're selling in very large volumes.
Now, where is my time machine? I need to go back to the 80's and buy up tons of parts