It depends on what you mean by "best" layers?and also if you are referring to Purebreeds .
A lot of people jump straight for a breed that lays the "Most" eggs but when you look at how much feed they consume and how long they lay for , a Breed such as a "Campine" would actually be more economical in a feed to egg ratio .
I would say you would be happy with an Australorp , a Young Australorpe hen will lay 200 eggs comfortably in a season .
Or you may prefer a leghorn which will also give your 200 eggs a season
Then their is The "Rhode Island Red" and I am Referring to "Purebred" RIR not battery hens or Isa's or Lohmans or any other Red hens I repeat , Rhode Island Reds . This magnificent bird will give you your 200 eggs a year easily, and if you were to read and believe "The history of the Breeds" by Louis Paul Graham , An RIR hen High record egg production for 351 eggs a year , which would also be confirmed ,by statistics obtained at The Hawkesbury Egg laying trialls , another such trial "The Yorkshire Fedaration Laying Trials" recorded one RIR hen laying 325 eggs in 336 days . Of course all of these records are set in controlled conditions .
And then theirs the Sussex , which you will get your 180 eggs a year from easily . I still use my sussex eggs but consider them to be first and foremost a tablebird . I am a completely Biased Sussex Breeder and will quite happily tell you they are the best breed and thats what you should have , Because they are
My personal best Layers here are an Old Battery hen My daughter rescued from the markets for $6
and My Brahma's
as for what a fair price is . I think that is your decision . I just paid $110 for a hen to breed from last week because I really liked her comb , so I am the wrong person to ask .
A wise old breeder told me not long ago , It cost about $100 to get a good bird to Maturity now days .
So price is one of the last things I look at if , it's what I'm looking for ,
Like I said I'm probably the wrong person to ask , when it comes to price
All I can add at this point is , You get what you pay for . and Think about how long they'll lay for .
what I mean is if someone has some "cheapies" they may be old and youll only get one season out of them and you may be better buying chickens or Point of lay hens .
Best of Luck , Ian