Agreed. But what I think drives the price of cordovan these days is marketing, exclusivity, and perhaps most importantly, scarcity of material relative to demand. Think about it. There weren't legions of style-conscious dudes on an internet forum clamouring to see pictures of the next version of Wolverine horsehide boots in 1952. I'm willing to bet the guys that bought these in 1952 (probably at a higher price than $5, which was a wholesale price I guess) were carpenters, truck drivers, small-scale farmers. The same goes for the the supply contributor to the price; trade restrictions governing the import of horsehides today probably didn't exist in 1952. Perhaps the hides were domestically sourced.
How else do you explain the 200% mark-up on the 721LTD or 744LTD relative to garden-variety 1000 mile styles? Not quality (though arguably much better in terms of longevity than calf/CXL) alone. That said, check my sig. I bought in and continue to buy with other brands - though the markup is not as consistently high in other brands.