I've been meaning to mention this for a while: If you're interested in learning bass, or maybe even guitar, I've heard very good things about Rondo Music, which makes the SX and Brice sub-brands. People on the TalkBass forums rant and rave about these instruments. They're less than $200 (some of the guitars are less than $100), and although the build quality is sometimes rough (uneven frets, mostly) they are supposed to sound great and play like much more expensive basses.
They apparently keep costs down by making only a few set models, no customization or different paint jobs. And the interesting thing, to me, is that they're like the Costco of basses: in order to keep variety up, they change the lineup around constantly according to user demand. You never know what they'll be offering any given month--although the Fender imitations are pretty constant. They're a small operation, with a very attentive customer service rep.
I also love the way the photographer shows up in the chrome bridge cover of the classic J-bass here