Selmer advertisement from May 1961 advertising the option of fitting a Bigsby unit to the Hofner Verithin. The quoted price of 70gns compares with the 52gns price of a Verithin fitted with the standard "Lyre" tailpiece at that time..
Selmer offered the option of a Bigsby Vibrato Unit on all their Hofner archtops from Spring 1961 onwards, with some of their Hofner solid guitars such as the first version of the V-Solids (designated V4 and V5) being supplied to special order with a Bigsby fitted from around the same time. Initially US-made Bigsbys were fitted, as well as offered as accessories for owners to fix to their own guitars. However, from late-1961/early-1962 the units fitted to Selmer-distributed guitars and offered as accessories were actually made by Selmer in the UK under license from Bigsby USA.
As a means of easy identification, the US-made units have the word "Bigsby Patent" cast into their top face. The UK-made units have "Bigsby US Patent" or "Bigsby USA Patent". The casting of these words on the US-made units appears to be much sharper and better defined than those mad in the UK.
By manufacturing the Bigsby units in the UK, Selmer were able to reduce their cost considerably. For most of 1961, Selmer were asking 22 gns for the US-made product as a fit-yourself accessories. That would equate to around 2 weeks wage for the working man in Britain at that time. By late-1961, the UK-made units were being sold for 12 gns, as illustrated in the Selmer advertisement below.
The price of a Verithin fitted with the UK-made Bigsby in March 1963 was 67gns as compared to the non-Bigsby version at 57gns.
Selmer advert from late-1961 announcing the huge reduction in the price of Bigsby units.
It would seem that in most cases, Selmer initially installed the unit themselves on archtop and semi-acoustic guitars that had been received from Germany with the conventional "Lyre" or "Trapeze" tailpieces fitted. The fixing holes for the original tailpiece can be seen beneath the Bigsby fixing on many Hofners. However, after a year or so, some examples of models such as the Verithin and Committee, obviously considered to be appropriate for such an option, were supplied from the Bubenreuth factory with a Bigsby already fitted. These guitars usually have the word "Bigsby" included with the model name on the label inside the body.
The very few V-Solids fitted with Bigsbys had also obviously left the factory with that option in place. The standard V3 had a large cavity routed in the top of the guitar for the Hofner-made vibrato unit, and this would not have been covered up by a top-mounted Bigsby. To see an example of this model, click HERE.
The Selmer License-Built Bigsby Units in their construction would appear to differ from the US Bigsby units in that they have the string retainer pins fastened to the main spindle by means of screws. These can be clearly seen on the photo above. The US made units have the pins simply forced into blind holes.
The photo below shows the ball-ends of the strings located on the string retainer pins.
The cast alloy Bigsby "rocker" bridge shown below was substituted for the standard Hofner bridges that were appropriate for the various models. This is a rather crude piece of hardware when compared to discarded Hofner Type 72-23 "Micro-matic" bridge units (fitted on most electric archtop models from 1963), and even from the earlier Hofner Type 72-20.
The option of a Bigsby Unit on a Hofner archtop in 1962 was 12gns. Bearing in mind that the price for a Club 40 guitar at that time was 28gns, it would seem that only the well-heeled were able to afford a Bigsby on their new Hofner!
Although Hofner had commenced fitting their own style of tailpiece, the Type 415 in the photo below, to their semi-acoustics from about the same period, this was never fitted on the guitars supplied to Selmer in the UK. Presumably Selmer, having acquired the license for the Bigsby unit, wanted to move as many UK made vibratos as possible and, as Hofner were their main supplier of guitars, then Hofner had to fall into line. Something similar must have happened with the Selmer-backed and UK-made "Compensator" tailpiece. Has anyone seen a European or US market Hofner fitted with a Compensator ?? No....? But we digress........
Selmer, of course, offered all the various types of Bigsby Vibrato units as install yourself accessories, both for Hofner guitars that hadn't been lucky enough to be already so-equipped, and also for any other make of guitar. These were advertised liberally in the UK's music press, as well as in the Selmer Guitar Catalogues. A scan taken from the September 1965 Selmer catalogue is shown below:
Courtesy of Marcelo Ravelo, Spain.
Many thanks to Nick Smith for his help in producing this Fact Sheet.