It takes patience. Being at the right place at the right time. It's who you know and where you live. Knowing when to go big, knowing how to network. Trades, flips, negotiations, the hunt.
thats the thing I suppose - here in the UK nice vintage stuff is very thin on the ground compared to the states, plus we don't have swap meets like you guys so we don't come accross as much nice stuff, If we did I think I would end up like the hoover if we did
Personally, finding and building a bike and the people you meet along the way make collecting as much fun as owning the bikes themselves.
Thrill of the chase you mean - Yep ya don't want it to come too easy I suppose, that would be boring - plus, I am always building stuff on a shoestring so a lot of waiting for the right price is involved
Don't give the Hoover too much credit, his ego will grow too much. :p
And yes, we are very lucky to have local swap meets and more to pull from here in the States.
Though I will say a great deal of vintage mtb's make their way over seas to the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan...and the black hole that is CycleShark.
eBay and the weak US dollar is to your advantage. We gots to have something going for us!
Shoestring budget just means it'll take longer. My Tomac Raleigh took six years of active searching.