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Oil Sets New Record; Drivers Go Into Hock

Pawnshop owner Harry Jernigan says he hears "a dozen times a day" from people trying to pawn valuables in order to pay for pricey gasoline.
Scott Horsley, NPR
Pawnshop owner Harry Jernigan says he hears "a dozen times a day" from people trying to pawn valuables in order to pay for pricey gasoline.

Crude oil prices hit another record Friday, at $75 a barrel. Gasoline prices are also climbing, as well. While for most Americans the rising cost of gasoline is just an annoyance, there is evidence that those who live on the edge are beginning to sell personal valuables just to keep the gas tank full.

One very visible sign of the price of gasoline hangs outside a filling station in San Diego. It reads, $3.29 a gallon. A somewhat less visible sign is across the street, inside Harry Jernigan's pawn shop.

"People come in every day," says Jernigan. "They're trying to pawn tools, jewelry, electronics, anything, just to get $15, $20 to put in their gas tank."

Jernigan says most of the people pawning valuables are just trying to make it through to payday. About a third never come back to claim their items. So, if he doesn't think he can re-sell what they're offering, Jernigan has to turn people away.

Forecasters say gasoline prices are likely to keep rising, at least for the next couple of weeks. That probably won't mean any less business at the gas station. But it could mean more business for pawnbrokers like Jernigan.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.