While at the LA show a few months ago, we were lucky enough to get the chance to examine a very rare pen. I think it's safe to use the term "rare", despite the controversy over it's proper application, the pen in question is the Aurora Ethiopia. By almost anyone's definition, a "rare" pen!
These pens were made in the 1935, designed to play upon the nationalist fervor surrounding Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia. At first glance it's a very plain looking pen. The only thing setting it apart is the engraved eagle and the word Etiopia on the cap. Aside from this little detail, it might be any one of a number of nondescript pens from the 1930s.
The exact number of these pens remaining today is not known, but it's certainly very few, perhaps less than ten. They do come up for sale every once in a while, and they are not cheap, especially when you consider that they are a plain celluloid pen, no precious metal overlays, or fancy material. Rarity will do that for you!
If you are a serious collector of vintage Italian pens, however, the Etiopia is generally considered one of the "holy grail" pens to add to your collection. As such, this is obviously not the kind of pen you're going to fill up and park in your pocket for daily use!
In use, it would be a simple eyedropper filler. What looks like a piston knob at the barrel end is actually a compartment that held tablets of dried ink that could be dropped into the barrel and mixed with water to form ink.
Inexpensive to manufacture, simple, and reliable. A pen clearly designed for use under adverse conditions. Unfortunately, this was also not a combination likely to result in a lot of these pens surviving to today. Unlike some the more expensive pens which might have been considered to be family heirlooms, the Etiopia was simply a tool, and as such, probably not accorded a lot of thought by those who bought them originally.
Despite the age of this example, it seems to have held up quite well. The white celluloid looks to have aged a bit, darkening to a uniform off white color. It's possible that this was close to the original color of course. I have always heard the Etiopia described as a "white celluloid" pen, and this, in combination with slight color variations between the barrel, cap, and blind cap, leave me believing that the pen has changed color a bit over the years.
However, with a pen this rare, "less than perfect" color isn't the same issue it might be with a more common pen, like a Sheaffer Balance, for example. Even discolored, the Etiopia is still a real prize. We're very grateful to the pen's owner, Mr. Carlos Almeda for allowing us the opportunity to photograph the pen, as well as for giving us some information on this uncommon model from Aurora.