A first timer real faux paux I see is the need for many to repeatedly take apart the swords, find a reason to mess up/with the fittings. All this in a measure to somehow make a poor sword better or wanting different bling. The suggestions to learn about katana is quite sound and even superficially worth spending at least some weeks in looking at the market and general construction.
Another good baseline for using swords is Kris Cutlery (although start a bit higher). If someone just wants to get the first sword out of their system, most anything will do but if seriously testing the waters of Japanese type swords, do yourself a favor and understand why a minimally functional sword at sub $100 really might not be in one's best interest.
I picked up eight stitches between two toes with my Hanwei practical. I was back cutting with it and other swords the next day but every time I cut now I keep that in mind. A sharp sword is like an always loaded gun. Safety first
I watched the sword market during the 1990s as the internet grew and was somewhat determined to buy the best sword I could afford. The appeal for Japanese was rooted further back in life from exposure to culture but danged if I wasn't ready to plunk down serious money on a high end Art Gladius silver fitted dragon and leather set. Within about a week of spending time on search engines and finding Michael Bell, Howard Clark and the beginnings of Bugei , I was much more informed and put it aside for some years until the modestly priced Hanwei swords started to roll out. I really should have contacted Ball for a fully mounted sword well under the $2,000 mark (I think he quoted about 1,200 to 1,600 back in 1997)
Needless to say, I went medieval instead while still looking at the Japanese types (both antique and current production at the time). I picked up one of the last wide generation of the basic Hanwei practical (fourth generation?) and to tell the truth, it is still a better sword than a lot of the $100-$200 swords out there today. Sure, plastic same, cotton ito, plastic menuki, simple (steel) tsuba; yet even then better made than many of the low cost throw aways that newcomers flock to. the Ronin swords posted up at SBG and elsewhere look pretty good for the money but there are some things I could say about them as well. From what I have seen of them, they qualify, albeit pricier than a sub $100 "who cares" sword.
It takes some restraint on boards such as this for those meaning well not to call out others as idiots or elitists and labeling either as such is counter productive both in offering advise to beginners or trying to clarify a stance of "proper" vs "good enough".
Swords are not pool cues, golf clubs, or even bowling shoes but would any figure the cheapest "good enough" is what one would want to start with if seriously interested in the hobby/sport? Sorry if I seem to be rambling but I want to suggest any newcomer to any sword type at least exercise patience in looking at the market before putting down dollar one.