I believe I was told a TFO costs around $20 to make overseas. Don't know what tax is to bring it over, but I'd gamble that if you look at what TFO charges for a rod vs cost to build and what Scott or Sage (American made companies, save the Sage Launch where the blanks are made overseas) charge for a rod vs cost to build, you'll find the TFO has a higher margin due to cheap components and very cheap labor.
I know at Scott all of the components that go into our top end rods like the G2, S4S, and S4 are high quality. For instance, the new S4S saltwater rod has a type III anodized reelseat custom made for us, all titanium concept guides and strippers, plus the material used to reinforce the rods (we call it ARC, Sage has their own name for it, but it is a lightweight, strong fiber that is about half the thickness of a human hair...really) is very, very expensive, but it's how we can build them light while maintaining hoop strength (the ability to keep the rod round when it bends which makes it less likely to compress and shatter/break). Another unique thing the higher end rod manfs do is blend different types of graphite throughout the blank in order to achieve the perfect harmony between taper and material, using higher modulus graphite where the rod needs speed and a lower modulus in areas where more strength/lift is needed. This technology and the advanced adhesives, scrim, and ARC (which I spoke about earlier) jumps the raw material/labor cost alone up substantially. I believe the Scott G2, S4, and S4S all have 5 or more different types of graphite layered up throughout the blank, plus ARC, plus a tad of cosmic voodoo. All of these things make the rods have a higher strength to weight coefficient and lets you be able to cast a 10' or 80' with equal ease yet still have a tip soft enough to land a massive brown on 7x or whip a 150lb tarpon without having a graphite grenade go off in your hand.
I always tell people, if you are a good caster, you can immediately tell the difference between a high end and low end rod. Then on the water, it becomes even more evident. Like my friend Jim Mauries who owns a fly shop in Nashville says, if you put a Scott, Sage, Winston and TFO rod on a table, tell a guy to pick one out for free, he's never going with the low end for a reason. Now, the question for the person buying a new rod is can they justify the price difference? Some can, some cannot. I think you can get equal performance from a Scott A3 or Sage Flight as you can from a TFO, so that's $300 for a US made rod from companies that have been around for decades vs offshore mass production.
To give an example away from fly fishing, my dad is one of the top custom wild turkey call makers in the country. His calls are literally ten times or more the cost of a mass produced store bought turkey call. Will both call in a turkey on a given day? Sure. But to know that someone who is passionate about the sport, took the time to hand hone, carve, and tune every aspect of the call, brush on the varnish, then hand sign and number the call before shipping it means a lot to me and many others. Bottom line is, sure, you can go get a blister pack box call from Wal Mart, got out and call in a turkey, but will you be giving that call to your children or pull it out with pride and show your friends or look down at it on the slow days and admire the quality of workmanship that can be found in so few things these days.
Yeah, kind of got off topic for a second. Sorry. Man, now I kinda want to go turkey hunting. Is April here yet? Ah well, heard the Davidson is fishing. Off to get my fix.