(CNN) -- If you've ever looked closely at a newly minted penny, you've probably been struck by its sheer beauty. Abraham Lincoln's bearded, chiseled, copper face shines forth beneath the proclamation of "In God We Trust" and beside the quintessential American motto, "Liberty."
Americans revere the penny, as it encapsulates a history lesson -- Lincoln brought freedom to so many -- and a civics lesson all in one.
But increasingly, Americans have stopped using the penny, as we turn toward electronic payments and away from cash. Sadly, inevitably, like so many other beautiful, venerated historical objects, it appears that the penny now belongs in a museum.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama asked Congress for permission to change the mix of metal that goes into making pennies and nickels. He based this recommendation because it costs taxpayers about 2.4 cents to make each penny and 11.2 cents to make each nickel.
In fact, the costs of using such coins are even higher. Poor Richard, aka Benjamin Franklin, recognized that "time is money." How much is our time worth?
The average American earns a little more than one penny for every two seconds of work. Unfortunately, when there's a penny involved in the transaction, it takes a couple extra seconds to fumble around for the coin and complete the purchase. Thus, for many people, time is more valuable than this money, and increasingly we throw away pennies, lose them, don't bother to collect them to return to the store or let them pile up in jars.
Stores pay out more pennies than they receive, so the order goes down the line to make more pennies, which are often lost and ignored -- repeating this vicious cycle.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Mint won't find a miracle metal that will make pennies worthwhile.
The bottom line is that even if pennies could be created out of thin air, the cost of our time would outweigh the gains from using the penny.
For nickels, the math works out better, so I'll second the president's call to begin making nickels out of less costly metal, rather than consigning them to the history books.