I personally think it's not a horrible idea to go ahead and try the higher end stuff out. I don't think a beginner should splurge on a 200 dollar vibe, per se. But getting something basic by a brand like Lelo or Fun Factory that makes safe, quality products can't be bad. It may not be their favorite toy forever and always as they discover what they like most, but there's a greater chance that it'll be an overall good experience.
And to add to the list of the short sweet somethings, I'd say... something pretty!
Having a toy that's unintimidating and aesthetically appealing can really help a first-time user be comfortable with using and enjoying their new toy. Nothing with veins or artificial hair, ya hear?