I'm a Springfield fanboy, so of course I would say Springfield. BUT since you're just starting out, I would find a good quality .22lr wheel gun to build up your skills with. If you're new to shooting alltogether, I would say start with a nice .22 rifle to learn the basics with. It was already said before, but I'll say it again... A good .22, pistol or rifle, is a lifetime keeper. I've got 5 .22's, 3 of which are nearly 100 years old and still in perfect working order, the other 2 are Ruger 10/22's, one scoped, one irons.
Your best bet is to go to a few gun shows and find what fits your hand best. Once you find a few that you like, find a range that rents pistols and shoot as many of the ones you liked as you can, as much as you can. What you like best is what you should get. Avoid the big box stores if you can (Cabelas, Bass Pro, Gander Mtn....), and go for the gun shows or mom n pop stores. Generally 1: you can bargain with them if you have cash in hand, 2: Aren't going to try and sell you something you don't really want or are unsure about. Then again, I may have just been fortunate in my travels.
Can't really say for your area, but around here, new prices: most standard polymer semiautos hover around $550-$650, most semiauto steel guns are $600 and up, and wheel guns run the gambit from $325-$700 and up.