you'd have to ask how they did it, but nowadays for the a la carte program i think they paint or plate after doing the engravings. that's why people can ask for engravings to not be filled in, and they don't show brass underneath. why do you think they did the engravings last?
yeah, it depends on your working style and goals. if you want to digitize every frame, the nikon is undoubtedly the way to go. even though prices have gone through the roof, in the long run it'll save time and money over a less convenient scanner or a lab doing scans for you.
after looking up the original prices of the nikon 5000ed ($600) and 9000ed ($2k), i'll knock the plustek's price down to around $1700 since the 7600i's original price was $520.
scanning is really only a pain if you do a lot of it. instead of scanning every shot, you can pick only the best and scan those.
tsujita's tonkotsu and tsukemen are my new #1. the tonkotsu is like the love child of ippudo and jinya.
jinya's tonkotsu is next, then miso at mottainai, then shio at santouka, then tonkotsu at yamadaya.