The Hofner Congress was an archtop acoustic guitar sold in the UK for approximately 20 years between about 1954 and until 1974. It was available in the UK and the Commonwealth from Hofner distributor Selmer Selmer. The Congress was one of the mainstays of the Selmer Hofner line, being the most affordable archtop acoustic, and with a production period only matched in longevity by the 500/1 Violin bass.
An equivalent model to the Hofner Congress, the Hofner 449, was distributed in Europe, and remained in production right through the 1970s and into the 1980s.
The Congress came in just one finish, Brunette (Sunburst). It was an effective guitar with no cutaways, fancy appointments or unnecessary decoration, and a relatively small 15" body width. And all of these factors kept the price low, making it an excellent entry level instrument that sold in large numbers.
The model changed very little over the period of its production, though there were subtle updates most notably with respect to headstock ornamentation. The Hofner Congress has fairly good availability in the used vintage guitar market (in the UK at least) and at quite reasonable prices. Look out for post 1960 examples which have the advantage of an adjustable truss rod.
The Congress was included in all Selmer catalogues and price lists over its period of production. The following description comes from the 1960 Selmer catalogue:
Full arched top and back with new style internal bars for greater resonance. Fitted with exclusive Hofner "Slendanek" with adjustable internal truss rod. Rosewood fingerboard with inlaid mother of pearl position dots and easy action brass frets. Steel screw cog, brass single plate machine heads. Floating finger plate in rich tortoiseshell grained celluloid. Hand-made adjustable bridge. The body has white purfled edge, rich brown colour with sunburst shading and is hand-rubbed to a high lustre finish. The Congress model has an easy action and the tone is very responsive. Compensator tailpiece.
The Congress, like every other Hofner guitar, slowly evolved in terms of features, especially headstock ornamentation. Here is an example of an early 1961 Hofner Congress, typical of those built between 1960 and early 1962. These are the first examples of the Congress fitted with an adjustable truss rod.
As explained above, Hofner guitars continually evolved in terms of features, and examining these gives an idea of production date. Selmer imported guitars do have a serial number, and there are various sites online that suggest an approximate date based on this, although these are certainly approximate. But some early Hofners also have a date on the underside of the body top. This is obviously not immediately visible but can be viewed by placing a mirror typically within the lower sound hole. This would have been applied during the instruments construction typically weeks or even months before the guitar would have been shipped. In this example the guitar is dated 25th January 1961.
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