Most of the Hofner archtops made in the 1950's, and a few in the early 1960's had a date written in pencil (or a rubber stamp on some later guitars) under the body top when the body was being made. This, if present, provides a good pointer when one is attempting to date an old Hofner.
However............. the usually accepted date for a guitar is its shipping (from the factory) date. This could be within a few weeks of the guitar's body being made, when the factory was working flat-out to reduce a backlog, or anything up to a couple of years later in harder times. There is strong evidence to show that Hofner tended to make stockpiles of bodies and necks when business was quiet, and assemble these into complete guitars sometime later. Nothing is straightforward when studying old Hofners !!
STEP-BY-STEP PICTORIAL INSTRUCTIONS:
Required - A small Maglite or similar, and an Inspection Mirror (or Dentists' Mirror).
A more effective solution to illuminating the inside of the body however is a small flexible inspection torch, such as the Signalex USB plug-in 5 LED light shown below:
Thanks to Jim Newbould for finding this type of torch.
Another, though slightly less effective alternative is the Coleman "Powerman" flexi-torch. Good illumination inside the body is vital to be able to search for the date.
The mirror slots in through the f-hole. Numbers are commonly found around the f-hole, mostly on the treble side (but sometimes on the bass side). There is a strut which runs the length of the body, between the f-hole and the strings. The number should be written or stamped between the f-hole and this strut.
... and here it is, imaged in the mirror The light parts top and bottom are the edges of the f-hole. You can see the strut running across the centre of the picture.
Image flipped around - It's 24.4.58.
In this instance, the format that has been used is Day.Month.Year. The other formats used by Hofner are - Day/Month/Year ; Day.Month Year ; and Day/Month Year .
Germans often write numbers in a particular way - 1 has a very large serif on top, and can look a bit like an upside-down 'V'. 4 never seems to have a 'loop', and can look like an upside-down 'h', as seen here. 7 should have a bar through the upright.
Stamped Body Date inside a 1960 Hofner Thinline President.
For another indication of the date of your Hofner, click HERE for information on "Pot Codes".