Dolphin is not the name of this line of pens. It’s a nick-name, applied well after the fact, based upon the odd profile of the thing. Unlike just about everything Sheaffer had made since 1938 and just about everthing else they would make until about 2008, these pens had only a number, 500, 800 or 1000. That number was also the price-code, and if not for the fact that these pens are not very well known one might be tempted to blame them for the habit in many folks of saying “Sheaffer 1250” when they meant “Sheaffer Valiant.”
It is frankly hard to know what to make of these pens. If they had appeared prior to the introduction of the inlaid point, they could be seen as a step in that direction, a transition from a traditional open point to the inlaid. However, Dolphins appear only three years after the advent of inlaid points. My suspicion is that Sheaffer was looking for a lower-cost alternative to the inlaid point which had a similar look. In these pens, the “inlay” is a separate item from the point itself.
There is no question that these pens write well. The questions about them surround their looks. This pen can be attractive, but only if one is careful about which angle it’s viewed from. With the cap on, it’s a fairly nice pen, but the cap is proud of the barrel in the 500 and 1000, giving the impression of being borrowed from a different pen altogether. When the cap comes off and is set off to one side, this is a beautiful pen… when seen from above. Actually, within about 30 degrees of vertical, this is a very stylish pen. Once the “forehead” starts to become noticeable, things start to come unstuck. This anterior bulge is less of an issue than the big prow-like fairing which encloses the feed, even with the cool gun-port appearance of the breather/feeder hole in the underside.
One might assume that the 500 was aimed at school market, a more modern-looking item than the Cadet; the July-August 1962 of the Sheaffer Review shows them bundled with “free” binders and a booklet on handwriting improvement. The 800 and 1000 are a little less clear in who the target was, apart from a broad swath of upwardly-mobile and (marginally) fashion-conscious pen buyers. The 1000 is particularly hard to figure out, since for the same price as it one could purchase an authentically inlaid PFM I.
Production Run: 1962 – 1964
Cost When New: $5.00, $7.95, and $10.00 for cartridge-fed versions. Touchdown versions were $5.95 and $8.95; the 1000 did not offer the option (for modern values, try this calculator).
Size: 13.6cm long capped, 14.2 posted, 12.0 cm uncapped.
Point: Steel on the 500, 14k gold on the other two (according to sources I trust; I have not actually taken the section of one apart to check).
If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.