Interesting discussion guys! But I thought I may chime in here with some things I've noticed that will likely impact pricing for clads and other circulating moderns. The first is changing modes of collecting among collectors of the Millennial generation (according to my research for my Doctor of Education program, birth year range from 1980 to 1996). Being born in 1980, I'm one of the first Millennials and I know some collectors in my age group, quite a few actually. One thing that collectors in this age group do not seem to do in any large numbers is series collect. I do not know of any Millennial collectors that series collects in any sort of serious way. I'm sure there are some who do, but I haven't met them. Collectors in my generational group couldn't seem to care less about having a full set of anything, be it Morgan Dollars or Clad Washingtons. Most collectors in this age range either collect by type or they collect thematically. I myself collect coins with birds and other dinosaurs on them. One of the employees at my favorite coin shop, who is in his early 30's, collects coins with ships on them. My girlfriend, who is 29, is thinking of starting a collection of outer space and sci-fi themed coins. Going back to my favorite coin shop, the owner's son, who is the other main employee, is working on a US Type Set. And talking with the guys at the shop, and employees at other shops, they have noticed the same thing. Thematic and type collecting is on the rise among collectors of the Millennial generation and I can't even say series collecting is on the decline among collectors of this generation because I don't feel that it was ever a big thing with many collectors of this age group. I myself tried my hand at series collecting in my younger years and found it less than satisfying. Also, when I was series collecting, I was an oddball among collectors in my age group. No one my age or younger got why I was doing it, and spending serious money on it. Eventually, I realized I agreed with them and gave series collecting up, which was a good move for me as I enjoy thematic collecting better. However, there are still plenty of collectors who are of different generations that are keeping series collecting alive.
However, that is not to say that series collecting doesn't happen at all among younger collectors, however it is not where the younger collector's main financial resources go. Many younger collectors I know that search rolls and pocket change do build sets in Whitman folders. I do this myself with Canadian Small Cents and other Canadian denominations out of my 80% Silver bullion purchases. But I certainly do not spend serious money on it. The cents are all found in rolls or in circulation. I have about 19 spots in my two Whitman folders to fill, and if I find them in my circulation hunting, great. But if I don't, I certainly do not plan to go spending money that I could use for my thematic dinosaur collection on buying a 1985 Pointed 5 Cent or a 1947 Blunt 7 Maple Leaf cent. It's a fun project, but its fun in the parameters of low cost and a lack of seriousness. It's not something I would ever start spending serious money on. But I do spend serious funds on my thematic collection, both in buying coins and grading them so I can share them on here. Going back to the clad Washingtons, I'd say that's probably what is happening to a lot of the coins Cladking was talking about. They're going into people's not very serious, just for fun Whitman folder collections. However, does this mean that these coins will rise in value from these Whitman folder collectors moving into a serious, high-grade series collection of Washington Quarters? I'd say no, not unless the collecting tastes of younger collectors change which I highly doubt will happen. I can't predict the future, so I cannot say it definitely will not happen at some point, but I honestly cannot think of what would spur that kind of a change.
As far as younger collectors, from what I've observed, NCLT is king. There are so many beautiful and amazing coins coming from the mints all over the world that push the limits of technology, offer diverse themes, and offer a beauty beyond what most regular circulation coins can offer. I see many series collectors complain about the large number of issues, but I think the mints are evolving to survive and that means catering to the tastes of the younger generation of collectors. If you look at the large number of NCLT issues from a series collector mindset, the mindset of needing to have everything, it IS frustrating. But if you look at this diversity from a thematic collector's standpoint, it's exciting! There's a few new things for your thematic collection coming out every year from a variety of mints, allowing for amazing diversity within a thematic collection, allowing one to construct a truly unique collection. I'd say the mints are evolving with the tastes of the younger generation and the younger generation is continuing to collect in ways that allow them to make the most of collecting the NCLT issues they enjoy.
So I agree with you World Colonial. I do not think high grade Clad Washingtons will ever have their day. Series collecting is declining among younger collectors and compared to the NCLT issues that most younger collectors enjoy now, a Clad Washington is very bland and boring. The Gen X and Baby Boomer collectors who do series collect view them with disdain because they have no silver content and extremely high mintages while Millennial and Gen Z collectors view them with disdain because they are bland and boring compared to NCLT along with having almost no interest in serious series collecting. So the clad Washington loses on both sides.