There are a couple other popular coonhounds to think about. Black and tans, redbones and english coonhounds are all pretty popular for raccoon hunting. I can not speak to price but those are some examples of some other breeds.
I don't here much about coon hunting anymore - is it still popular or has the sport waned a bit? What are the differences in the breeds? Why is one better than the other? I don't know much about hunting dogs. I have a yellow lab, but he is not a hunting dog. The only dog that I know that would rather be inside on a nice day instead of outside.
The only guys still coon hunting now are the ones that love the sport. There is no money in it anymore so most people have stopped doing it. Any dog that can trail and tree game can be a coon dog but the hound breeds are best at it. Some cur dogs are good too.
A perk of majoring in wildlife biology in college is the plethora of hunting knowledge that you collect throughout your course load. One of the most important factors in whether an area can hold large quantities of animals or produce large antlers is forage.
Most universities, state schools and even community colleges offer basic botany courses and plant ID courses. Although it might not be feasable for the average middle age hunter to pay tuition and go back to college to learn hunting...