Several years ago I thought I had found a great deal on a guitar. It was purchased via eBay for only around $10 (plus shipping, of course!). Finally, I could learn to play the guitar. Well, it turns out it was complete and utter junk. I couldn’t even tune it up without strings breaking (much less being able to hold a tune on the string) and it just plain sounded terrible. While Inexpensive guitars are available, there is a minimum that a guitar must be able to do to even begin to actually be useful.
The same is true for telescopes. You might see $150 specials in Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend those. You (or your child) may be able to get more satisfaction from those then I got from my eBay guitar, however, for about $50 more you can do several times better.
The Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) telescope, the OneSky 130, is the telescope I strongly recommend — if $200 is around your price range. I would probably recommend this telescope, even if your price goes up to about $400. The OneSky is an excellent value. It has a 130mm primary mirror, which is more than adequate for planetary viewing, as well as some other great objects in the sky. As it is relatively easy to set-up (more complex setup is another issue with those previously mentioned “specials”) and use, enjoyment with this telescope can begin right away. Don’t be like me and my crummy guitar — just get this telescope, already!
The OneSky was created in partnership between AWB and Celestron (telescope manufacturer) at cost, to be used as a fundraiser for AWB. AWB supports astronomy education efforts around the world.