Transitional planes get a bad rap, a really bad rap. Especially the longer models. For some reason collectors scorn them, probably because they are so readily available. Some folks even advocate burning them... now there is a sin if there was one.
While I'm not going to put the transitional planes from Stanley, Sargent, and others in the same class as Lie-Nielsen, Veritas or the other high end planes currently available they are certainly in the same league as their iron soled cousins and in some ways more appropriate to those just getting into hand planing.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for the price of a Lie-Nielsen #4 smooth plane the thrifty shopper could acquire transitional versions of a smoothing plane, a jack/fore plane, and a jointer and be ready to do stock prep on the majority of North American soft and hard woods.
In fact I have a:
#35 Smoother ($15 Craigslist)
#27 Jack (Free from Relative)
#29 Fore ($12.50 Craigslist)
#32 Jointer ($85 Rose Tools)
Pretty reasonable for a full set of planes. I was reasonably picky about the condition and the soles are all in pretty good shape. I spent about 5 hours all together cleaning them up and sharpening them. For a comparison, this is about the same amount of time I put into my first hand plane, a GROZ #5, which I purchased new.
I enjoy working with these planes and do alot of stock prep with them. I definitely advocate them to wood workers looking to get into using hand tools due to the reasonable price, their availability, repair-ability and ease of setup. These are good quality tools that should be keeping a wood worker warm through use, not combustion.
For more info on setting up and using planes of all types I highly recommend "The Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack. It helped me greatly.