Sheaffer 500 “Dolphin”

A little background on this pen: in the 60’s, Sheaffer wanted to make a lower-budget line of pens that capitalized on the popular Imperial line. They had semi-hooded nibs that looked like inlaid nibs. The pens from the line were eventually nicknamed dolphins, likely originating from the weird, bulbous sections. The least expensive pen in this budget line is the cartridge 500.

That said, this weird pen is pretty sentimental to me.

I found it in an antique shop after I took the NCLEX–the licensure exam for nurses in the United States. It was new old stock, in box, with a matching mechanical pencil. It was one of the first times that I’d seen a fountain pen in a store and I’d just passed a big milestone in my life, so I bought it.

I fell in love with the streamlined look of hooded and semi-hooded pens because of this goofy little pen. The aesthetic doesn’t work for everyone, but I love them. I have a sub collection of pens with hooded nibs because I found this pen. It was my first vintage pen, too.

It may have been a budget pen in its time, but the 500 writes like an expensive one. The nib is fine and maybe unhallmarked palladium-silver–mine doesn’t attract a magnet, but the nibs weren’t marked on these cheap pens. The pen itself is small–right around 12cm uncapped–and very light. The metal slip cap works and isn’t too heavy, so the pen can be used posted, although it’s long enough to be used unposted, too. The whole thing feels cheap, though

It’s filled with a cartridge only. Modern Sheaffer cartridges work just fine for this, but modern converters will not fit in the pen (I tried). I suppose one might be able to convert it to an eyedropper. I have no idea if vintage Sheaffer squeeze converters would fit but those sell for about the same or more than these pens, so that’s not exactly an economical solution. The good news is that Sheaffer cartridges are all over the place and not terribly expensive. The ink is okay, too (except black–I hate Sheaffer Black) and the cartridges hold-up to reuse pretty well if one wants to refill them, as I usually do.

The 500 series pens are still relatively easy to find used, if one is interested. The street price is $55-75 as of this writing. I like this pen, but I would not pay $50 for it and I sure as hell wouldn’t pay $75 for it–$50 is in the Esterbrook J range and $75 can buy a user-grade Parker 51 (if one shops around), both of which are arguably better vintage pens.

The pencil is a pencil and it functions as expected.

Pros:

  • Writes really well. Smooth steel/maybe palladium silver nib.
  • Still relatively available.
  • Interesting Aesthetic.

Cons:

  • Cartridge only.
  • Feels like a cheap pen, even if it writes well.
  • Interesting Aesthetic.

My verdict: mine is sentimental to me, but overall I’d stay away unless one finds an example at a good price, collects Sheaffers, or likes the unconventional look.

IMG_20190325_194221
Capped, with Safari for size comparison
IMG_20190325_194124
Posted, with Safari for size comparison
IMG_20190325_193957
Unposted, with Safari for size comparison
IMG_20190325_193733
With Matching pencil. Cartridges only.
IMG_20190325_194252
It’s pretty obvious that manufacturers of the day were emulating the style of the Parker 51.

 

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MatB

I am a fountain pen enthusiast.

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