According to Hofnerís own records available, the serial numbers allocated to the Selmer guitars only cover the period from 1958 to 1971. Serial numbers much earlier than those listed are to be found. Listed below are the likely starting numbers for the Selmer range.
Committees - 2000
Committee Thinlines - 1000
Presidents - 1500
Senators - 1000
Congresses - 2200 (The earlier Square Dance model seems to run from (2000 to 2200)
All other models distributed by Selmer commence at zero with the possible exception of the Ambassador (which may have started at 50?).
The following features are normally found only on the very early models:
1. No Hofner logo on headstock
2. Hofner logo impressed on body below right hand side of bridge
3. Strip type machineheads with oversized tuning posts on Committees and Presidents.
4. Mahogany strips in necks of Committee and President guitars do not continue into the heel (i.e. solid heels)
5. Heels constructed of single piece maple and are more sharply tapered than heels on later models.
6. Black slimline single coil pickups in rosewood or ebony with Trepholite cappings some of which have white edging
7. Circular control panels with white edging
8. Model name and serial number hand written in ink
9. Fingerboard projection over body has no separate spruce support
10. Centre dividing strip on backs
11. No triple dot inlays at the third position.( Observed on an early President)
12. Trapeze tailpieces on Congress models.
On the early guitars, the headstock angle was quite slight, possibly around a 10 degree offset from the neck. This angle was increased to around 14 degrees about 1956. The angle between the headstock and the neck has a marked effect on the string tension. On bell flower designed headstocks, the overall height of the inlay was reduced in 1960 to accommodate the truss rod cover
From examination of the early models, it would appear that strip machine-heads were used exclusively. It is probable that these were the only the type available at the time. (Strip types were used on Club40 and Club 50 guitars throughout their production period, and to the Congress up to about 1962.)
Strip tuner as fitted to Congress/Club 40/Club 50.
From around 1956/57, individual machine-heads were adopted. Two basic types of base-plates were used. See diagrams below : -
TYPE 1 - Fitted to President/Club 60/Verithin/Ambassador. This type was also fitted to the Senator up to 1962.
Type 1 fitted to President/Club 60/Verithin/Ambassador
Type 1 fitted to a pre 1962 Senator
TYPE 2 - Fitted to Congress and Senator from 1962 onwards.
Type 2 fitted to Congress & Senator only.
Three different button sizes were adopted: namely 19 x 13.5mm, 20x 12.5mm and 22x12.5mm
The three-ply nuts are usually W/B/W but some early Senator guitars sport B/W/B nuts. This departure can also be found on the Club 40 and Club 50 instruments.
During 1959/1960, some blonde guitars (such as some of the Senator Thinline and Club 40s) were produced with a black finish to the rear of the necks and headstocks. This departure was short lived.
Very early Congress models had only twelve frets in lieu of the normal fourteen to the body junction.
As stated earlier, truss rods were first introduced in 1960. The first type installed was 5mm in diameter and 370mm in length (threaded for a length of 20mm at the headstock with a hexagonal nut). The bottom end, which terminated in the heel, comprised a hexagonal nut and washer. Around the end of the 1960ís, the hexagonal nut was replaced with an allen bolt.
Although truss rods were not used prior to 1960, the Selmer catalogues for the earliest Committees and Presidents stated that the necks were spliced steel reinforced.
The earliest guitars with bound fingerboards have fret ends cut into the binding and exposed, giving an unfinished appearance.
Hofner guitars were officially imported into the UK for distribution by the London-based subsidiary of the Henri Selmer company. Examples dating from as early as 1953 are to be found, and Selmers continued importing Hofner guitars and basses up to the very early 1970's.
The system adopted by Hofner for recording the date upon which the guitars were crafted is as follows: the dates are located either on the left side of the treble sound-hole or on the right side of the bass sound-hole. The dates are hand-written in pencil on some models and stamped in ink on other models. A small mirror and some means of illumination are all that is required to discover how old you latest acquisition is. Sometimes the dates are quite difficult to find......... but persevere! (See the Fact File on Body Dates in Steve Russell's website.)
A quick word on laminated tops: Hofner adopted differing thicknesses of the laminates and these may be two, three or five-ply. Apparently, in the 1960ís, most tops were constructed of five-ply laminates of similar thickness. A 1960 President Thinline guitar examined was found to have a two-ply top. Perhaps this had something to do with the overall thickness of the guitar body which is only 50mm.......?
All guitars bound for the UK had internal labels. The first type of label has stylized Hofner name in fine style with a wave and dot border all round. The second type consisted of a heavier Hofner style name with a diamond and line border. The early guitars normally have the model and serial number written by hand in ink. This method was continued until around 1958/59 Subsequently the information was completed in typed format. Change-over date for labels 1962/1963.
The dyed maple bridges used on the President, the Senator and the Congress guitars have a reference number stamped on the top of the lower section, proof of an original Hofner component.
Harp style may have "Made in Germany" on the flower-shaped base, whilst others do not.
Lyre style may have Hofner engraved on the upper bar, but guitars without can be found.
These inconsistencies could well be due to the use of different suppliers. Most Hofners could be supplied with the option of a Bigsby vibrator unit.
The early electric guitars were fitted out with 90 x 15 mm wood cased pickups having Trepholite cappings up to about 1958. From this date 90 x 18mm all plastic units were used (1959/1960). Hofner apparently produced their pickups in either black or white. I have never come across white pickups on any Selmer Hofners.
The earliest Hofner guitars had "Hofner" heat impressed below the right side of the bridge. Later models have gold decal, but throughout the whole range of models it can be found on some and missing on others. If no logo exists , it is worth checking out the likelihood of a refinish
Extremely rare animals. To date I have only encountered two: one Committee and one Verithin. Presumably Hofner produced limited numbers of these guitars throughout the Selmer range.
Due to Hofnerís continual re-vamping policy, attention is draw to the fact that many instruments appear not necessarily having the expected hardware/electrics etc, for that particular year. Hybrid guitars are therefore quite common
The Committee name was derived from a committee formed by six top British guitarists who had a design input regarding the new model. My opinion is that Hofner may have utilised their existing 468 model body and allowed the guitarists to design a completely new-style neck and headstock. This would go someway to explaining the early dates found on some Committee bodies as these would possibly have been originally intended as 468 model guitars
The other Selmer models, namely President, Senator, Congress, Clubs, Verithin and Ambassador correspond to the German market models, ie 457, 455, 449, 125, 126, 128, 4564 and 4578 respectively. Once again the original bodies may have been utilised and new-style necks, etc, fitted. It is obvious from the choice of some model names, the American influence was very apparent even down to the sizing of the guitar bodies
© Ramsay McKinnon 2006.