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Hofner Electric Guitar and Bass List

Instruments manufactured by Hofner

Hofner Guitars The Beatles in the early 1960s

Hofner guitars and basses hold a very special position in the history of popular music; they were the guitars that so many influential British guitarists of the early 1960s were playing, Most notably of course, Paul McCartney of the Beatles, with his 500/1 Violin bass.

Karl Hofner started producing violins in 1887, adding other stringed instruments to the line soon after. He and his sons, Josef and Walter, built the business in Schonbach, Germany, building their first guitars there in the 1930s.

Coming from a tradition of Violin making did have a noticeable impact on the guitars they produced, and not just in body style, as in the aforementioned 500/1 bass. Players more used to other brands are often amazed at the light weight of hollow-bodied Hofner guitars and basses, and the superb "woody" tone. But one downside is the fact that they are less durable than many equivalent instruments; after all violinists don't thrash their instruments, and a typical Hofner can not take the beating that many rock guitarists like to mete out. Violins are held together with animal hide-based glue in order that necks can be steamed open and reset. After several decades, the joints of guitars built this way will often need regluing; most vintage Hofner's have had or will need a neck reset. Likewise finishes, whilst beautiful looking, are not able to handle the wear and tear of decades of use. Vintage Hofners can be great functional instruments, but need to be handled with care to remain in tip-top condition.

Early days, 1950s Hofner

1966 UK Hofner advertisement

1966 UK Hofner advertisement - see other vintage Hofner advertisements here

The Schonbach plant ceased instrument production during the second world war, and was closed shortly afterwards. Instrument production started again with a big new plant in another German town, Bubenreuth, opening in late 1950. Hofner's long history in orchestral stringed-instrument manufacture dictated the kind of guitars produced: well-built hollow bodies with set necks, many with hand carved tops, many acoustic; and many utilising the inlaying skills of Hofner's craftsmen. As the 1950s progressed numerous improvements were instituted; Hofner certainly kept up with the important developments in American guitars, and by the very end of the decade were producing thinlines, and fitting adjustable truss rods to all models. But guitar demand grew massively over the next two decades; both in Germany, but also increasingly worldwide. Sales were rising, buoyed, by the advent of rock 'n' roll and then beat music, and the Bubenreuth plant had to be extended on several occasions to keep up with production.

1961 Hofner Congress acoustic guitar

1961 Hofner Congress acoustic guitar

1962 Hofner Verithin thinline electric acoustic guitar

1962 Hofner Verithin thinline electric acoustic guitar have a closer look

1960s heyday

Hofner guitars have always been popular in the United Kingdom. Hofner made special UK models like the President, Senator, Congress, Committee, Verithin and numerous others. They were similar in many ways to some European models. They were distributed in the UK and Commonwealth by Selmer and sold well in the late 1950s and very early 1960s, both as student and professional instruments. More expensive American guitars by Gibson, Gretsch and Guild were largely unavailable (or at least unaffordable) due to trade restrictions, at least until 1961, and at this point British guitar makers were unable to produce well-built hollow-body guitars, so Hofner initially had little competition.

Then, of course, there was Paul McCartney who had bought his 500/1 violin bass in 1961. He played this bass throughout his time with the Beatles, and despite having other basses available always came back to this; most notably using it on the famous Apple building rooftop concert of 1969.

One other big change in the 1960s was the strong demand for solid body guitars; in part due to the changing musical direction of the 1960s, but also the huge growth of student guitarists looking for cheaper instruments than the labour intensive hollow bodies. Original Hofner models like the V-series (V1, V2, V3) were followed by the Colorama, Super Solids and Galaxie guitars, all of which sold well to aspiring guitar players of the 1960s.

The 1970s

Solid bodies performed better at louder volumes, and as the 60s turned into the 70s, hollow guitars dropped out of fashion. But Hofner was facing problems. Highly respected manufacturers like Gibson and Fender had the professional end of the market all but sewn-up, whilst Asian manufacturers were producing high quality budget guitars very cheaply indeed. Hofner managed to keep flagship models like the violin bass, but was otherwise forced down the route of the Japanese manufacturers producing (admittedly not bad) copies of Gibson guitars.

Latest posts on Hofner guitars and basses at the VintageGuitar forum
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Hofner Galaxie info please
1 replies
last message by jules
14/06/2015 05:43

Who knows ?
1 replies
last message by jules
31/03/2015 14:50

Lookin 4 Vintage Hofner Electric Guitar Model 459VTZ
9 replies
last message by Custom53
23/11/2014 09:53

Hofner president electric 1959
2 replies
last message by RonB
26/08/2014 11:08

Solid body guitars

V1 / V2 / V3

Hollow body guitars

  1962 Verithin

Bass guitars


Hofner Catalogues

1960 Selmer (UK)
1964 Selmer (UK)
1966 Selmer (UK)
1967 Hofner (US)



Hofner parts


Recent updates

1966 Selmer guitar catalogue
1966 Selmer guitar catalogue The 1965/1966 Selmer guitar catalogue contained guitars by a number of different makers imported for the UK market, the most numerous being German-made Hofner electrics, acoustics and basses. There is also a fairly large Gibson section, but it by no means contains all instruments produced under that brand at the time. Other instruments featured include guitars and basses by Hagstrom and Futurama, and Brazilian acoustic guitars by Giannini. 44 pages, with UK pricing in guineas.
1962 Hofner Verithin thinline acoustic
1962 Hofner Verithin thinline acoustic A closer look at a 1962 Hofner Verithin electric acoustic guitar, in translucent cherry red finish. The Verithin was Hofner's thinline model, produced in Germany for Selmer in the UK, and aimed at capturing the desire for the highly desireable, but largely unaffordable Gibson ES series thinline models. They were good quality, well-built, lightweight instruments, and very popular in early 1960s Britain.
1960 Selmer Guitars and Strings catalogue
1960 Selmer Guitars and Strings catalogue, The 1960 Selmer guitar catalogue featured a whole range of acoustic, electric semi-acoustic, and solid body guitars manufactured by Hofner. There were also a small number of Hofner-made (but Selmer branded) acoustic guitars, Futurama branded solid bodies, and a Futurama electric upright bass. From the very fine (and even shorter lived) Golden Hofner, to the budget Selmer 222 flat top. Monochrome, 32 pages

Older updates here

US ebay listings

1970 Hofner 500/1 Left Handed "Beatle" Violin Bass Guitar

Current price: $640.00
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Time left: 3d 5h 14m
Hofner 1959 President's Guitar Sunburst Finish

Current price: $999.99
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UK ebay listings

Hofner President 1960 Acoustic Archtop Steel String Vintage Guitar

Current price: £74.22
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Time left: 5d 10h 43m
Guitar Hardcase - Selmer-style / Hofner Galaxie/ 1960s/ Vintage case

Current price: £50.00
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Hofner Hawaiian Steel Lap Guitar 1960's

Current price: £129.00
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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Stefan Comment left 22nd July 2012 15:03:31
I own three Hofners, a '61 Hofner Congress acoustic, a '63 President electric and a new contemporary series Verithin in stunning translucent cherry. All great players, especially the new verithin, which has a great action. I think the two others have slightly too high action for me, but I don't want to go the neck reset route. Any tips for improving playability without major work?
mark Comment left 23rd August 2013 16:04:32
looking for a 459vtz super call 7727083714 thanks

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