I know what you mean about the knee pads. I don't like them either. You can get some of the higher end saddles new without them as luvs2ride said. Also, libertyville saddle shop has gold medal brand saddles in the 800-1200 range. Don't know anything about the brand, but they are one of the only saddle company's that offer them and are not super low end. You can always find India made saddles without the padding, but the leather will be like cardboard.
If you are looking in the lower price range I would suggest getting a used one. Crosbys are wonderful and always available used.