It is something of a crap shoot. I have had a lot of luck with the really old ones. If you are going to inhabit that space expect worn out tenons and stems that share certain close similarities to fragmentation grenades. Once expertly overhauled they will give years of service if treated correctly and with care.
Same experience here. I have quite a few smooth, straight, well-smoked estate meers that I have bought on ebay or antique stores, and restored. I hear these stories about 'disaster' meers that fall apart, but I've never experienced anything like that - not even a crack.
But...I don't buy random maker meers and I don't buy cheap, unsmoked meers. The reputable pipe companies almost all made simple smooth straight meers in the early 1900's. I now only buy such pipes, and only those with bone screw tenons. Very worst case is that you get one where the stem isn't anywhere close to aligned, in which case you can sand either the stem or the face of the shank (whichever doesn't have the tenon) carefully, until things align.
And of course, if you want a meer for under $50, your likely going to end up with an 'under $50' quality meer.
I'll add that, checking my inventory spreadsheet, most of my smooth straight billiards were $65-$90 and have cases, bone tenons and amber stems.