Höfner master luthier Toni Klier checking out a Senator Thinline in Bubenreuth, mid-1960s.

OK, so you want to find out when your Höfner archtop or thinline was made? That can either be a very quick and simple process, or it may well be long, tedious, and ultimately far from precise. It all depends on the period of your guitar’s manufacture, which model it is (whether it had a long or a short production run), and who the distributor/wholesaler was!

The following are all pieces of information that may be of use in establishing a manufacture date for your guitar:

·         Serial numbers

·         Pot codes (indicating when any potentiometers incorporated in the electrics of a guitar were made.

·         Body dates – dates are sometimes written or stamped inside the guitars body cavity.

·         Types of pickups fitted

·         Specific features in the design or specification of the guitar that were only used during one particular time period.

First though, can we even define what a guitar’s “manufacture date” is?  Is it the date when the body was made, even though Höfner had a habit of making guitar bodies in batches, putting these into stock maybe for a year or two, and then assembling and finishing them when the orders came in? Perhaps it is the date when the potentiometers for the volume controls were made, even though these were produced again in batches in a supplier’s workshop and then delivered to Höfner who immediately put them into the stock room for anything between a few weeks or a few years. No, using either body dates or “pot codes” would seem a rather silly way of defining the exact manufacture date of one’s guitar, although they are very good indication of approximate dates. It is surprising though how many owners (and vendors) do proclaim that their guitar was made on a particular day or week of a particular year, after reading the body date and/or pot codes.

A more definite date is that when the final assembly of the guitar is completed. However, until Höfner started using serial numbers which were based on the “signing-off” date following final assembly, there were no means of accurately arriving at that date.

Shipping records, including invoices, are the next best thing, providing however one assumes that Höfner didn’t have guitars hanging around the workshops for any great length of time after completion. After all, it doesn’t seem likely that Höfner would put the effort into finishing a guitar just to have it then sitting about instead of producing cash flow. The problem is that unless a guitar has a serial number, then how does one identify on an invoice as to when it was shipped? That is where the Selmer London guitars have the advantage in the dating game. Höfner put the serial numbers on the instruments on behalf of Selmer, and then recorded these on their shipping records as each instrument set off to Selmer. That is how we now know, to a modest degree of accuracy, the dates when most guitars were shipped to Selmer.

So what’s the answer if one doesn’t own a Selmer–distributed guitar? Well, I didn’t say that we should disregard body dates or “pot codes” did I? It’s just that we should take care not to get too carried away with them, but use them as another piece of evidence to be used in conjunction with other items of evidence such as design features and detail of specification apparent on the guitar. If nothing else however, they give dates which should be considered as the very earliest possible that the guitar could have been assembled.

So, dating has to be perhaps considered as an art rather than a science. Occasionally one will be able to arrive with a confident conclusion that one’s guitar was definitely made in a particular year. More usually however, it will be a case of deciding on a particular time period which may span two or three years, one half of a decade, or even a decade. One has then to accept that this will be the best that can be achieved and simply live with that conclusion.

So, let’s see what can be gleaned from the list of five sources of dating information listed above:


Manufacturers’ serial numbers are usually the simplest and most reliable way of accurately dating a guitar. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Höfner-made guitars and bass guitars! As can be seen from the information below, most Höfner guitars made prior to 1985 have no serial numbers. Many of those that do have numbers that are virtually useless as regards to dating, and at best only give a vague clue to a possible manufacture period. Unless one is lucky enough to own a guitar with a Selmer serial number, or one made after 1985 or even better after 2000, then other features on the guitar have to be considered in order to build up an increasing accuracy of a probable manufacture date.

1. Höfner Workshop Serial Numbers; c1976 to 1985

As a general rule, Höfner did not give serial numbers to the majority of their guitars or basses until 1976, when a 6-digit number system was introduced. Unfortunately, these numbers do not follow a fully consecutive sequence although they do seem to be used in blocks from 1976 to late 1979 and then late 1979 to 1984, so that does help a little. These 6-digit serial numbers were allocated to each guitar on a body label located beneath the bass soundhole or by sticking a small white label with black numbers to the rear of the headstock on those thinline guitars that did not have a soundhole. A few examples of serial numbers of this type with approx. shipping dates are provided below, not particularly to act as a comprehensive dating guide but more to show the pitfalls of using this “system” is for dating purposes.


Serial No.

May 1976


Sept 1979


Nov 1979


Oct 1980


Oct 1981


Dec 1982


June 1983


Mar 1984 215676




2. Höfner Workshop Serial Numbers; 1985 to 1999

The body label for a Hofner Nightingale Custom, which was the first guitar signed-off on 15th February 1990 (by Hubert Kaa).

In 1985, it would appear that an attempt was made to arrive at a system that would be based on the date that guitars were shipped from the workshop. The system was again based on 6 numeric digits as follows:

1st digit: last digit of the year (e.g. “6” for 1996)

2nd & 3rd digits: month of the year  (e.g.”11” for November)

4rd & 5th digits: day of the month (e.g. “07” for the seventh day)

6th digit: the number of the guitar signed-off that day (e.g. “2” for the second guitar signed-off”

So, a serial number 611072 would have been given to the second guitar signed off on the 7th November 1996.

(Strangely, this system was not adopted for bass guitars until 1996, which before that date were all numbered using the previous random system. Even after 1996, some bass guitars continued to be numbered under the old random system.)


3. Höfner Workshop Serial Numbers; 2000 to Present Day

The body label for a Hofner Verythin Classic, signed of by Hubert Kaa on 12th September 2003.

At the beginning of the year 2000, Höfner at last adopted an overall and definitely more sensible system of serial numbers which was still based on the date that the guitar was “signed-off” after completion, but which ensured that duplication would not occur every ten years! Instead of the first digit of the serial number being a number, a letter was used instead. Therefore, Serial No. B09233 would indicate that the bass had been the third one signed off on 23rd September 2001. The year letters for this system are provided below:


Year Letter


Year Letter


Year Letter






































The numbers described above are written on a body label, together with the model name and the signature of the luthier responsible for assembling and signing-off the guitar. This is usually located inside the body, directly below the bass sound hole or control panel for a guitar like the Club re-issues without sound holes.



If Höfner didn’t have a serial number system for their guitars and basses before the mid-1980’s, then what are the numbers found at various locations on the headstocks of some of the earlier guitars? Well, those are numbers applied by or on behalf of various Höfner distributors around the World. Presumably those distributors felt that it was important to have such a system whereby the provenance of each instrument could be recorded and subsequently traced for such matters as warranty claims. The best documented and hence the most useful are those of Selmer London.

 1. Selmer London Serial Numbers; 1952-1971

Very Early Label Type. c1952
Early Label with Hand-Written Details

c1953 - c1958
Label with Typed Details

c1958 - c1972

Selmer London stipulated a separate series of numbers for each Höfner model that they dealt with, and they insisted that Höfner put serial numbered labels inside the bodies of their guitars under the bass sound hole, or stamp the serial number on the back of each headstock for those few guitars such as the Clubs that didn’t have sound holes. Höfner actually recorded these numbers on their shipping records, and although these records were far from complete, it was possible back in the 1990’s for the information to be collated, resulting in tables correlating the serial numbers against the years in which the basses were shipped. This work was carried out for, and first appeared in, Michael Naglav’s excellent book entitled “Höfner-Guitars, Made in Germany” which was published in the mid-1990’s. It has been expanded in the tables below using the information gained over the years whilst compiling the model registers on the Vintage Höfner website.

1952 to 1962:

Model /Shipping
1952-53 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962
Four Square 500 - c1000
Square Dance c2000 - c2300
Congress c2300 - c2500 c2500 - c3000 c3000 - c3800 c5800 - c7800 c7800 - c8700 c8700 - c9900 c9900 - 10958 10959 - 12278
Senator 500 - c1000 c1000 - c1350 c1350 - c1900 c1900 - c2700 c2700 - c4400 c4400 - c7800 c7800 - c10000 c10000 - c11400 c11400  - 11702 11702 - c12080
Senator Thinline 500 - c950 c950 - 1088 1089 - 1227 1228 - c1300
President 1500 - c1650 c1650 - c2020 c2020 - c2380 c2380 - c2800 c2800 - 3479 3480 - c5100 c5100 - c6500 c6500 - 7967 7968 - c8000 c8000 - 8125
President Thinline >34 - c330 c330 - 681 682 - c830
Committee 2001 - c2040 c2040 - c2140 c2140 - c2260 c2260 - c2340 c2340 - 2563 2564 - 2950 2951 - c3420 c3420 - c3700 c3700 - c3744 3745 - 3792
Committee Thinline 1001 - c1090 c1090 - 1175 1176 - c1230 c1230 - c1320
Committee Deluxe 101 - c120 c120 - c130
Golden Hofner 1 - c5 c5 - ? ? - c50 c50 - c65
Golden Hofner Thinline 10 - 16 17 - c25
Verithin 201 - 350 351 - 699 700 - 1238
Club 40 100 - ? ? - 254 255 - 420 421 - c925 c925 - 1534 1535 - 1674 1675 - c1720
Club 50 300 - ? ? - 478 479 - 650 651 - c1225 c1225 - 1779 1780 - c1900 c1900 - c2000
Club 60 100 - 180 181 - c850 c850 - 1296 1297 - 1607 1608 - ?

1963 to 1972:

Model /Shipping
1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972
Congress 12278 - c13390 c13390 - c14332 c14332 - c14891 c14891 - c15366 c15141 - c15366 c15366 - c15456 c15456 - c15471 c15471 - 15517 c15517 - c15533 c15533 - ?
Senator c12080 - c12700 c12700 - c13500 c13500 - c13675 c13675 - 13768
Senator Thinline c1300 - 1404 1405 - c1659 c1660 - c1900 c1900 - c2300            
Senator 66     100 - 194 195 - c325 326 - 405 406 - 459 460 - 468 469 - 489 486 - 569  
Senator 66 Thin 1 - c90 c91 - ? ? - 189 190 - ? ? - ? ? - ? ? - 193  
President 8126 - c8330 c8330 - 8727 8728 - 8976       c9000 - ? ? - ? ? - c9300  
President Thinline c830 - 962 963 - 1134 1135 - c1300              
President 66 Florentine 101 - c200 c200 - c230 c230 - c250 c250 - 280      
President 66 Thin Florentine     1 - 143 144 - 273 274 - 360 361 - c370        
Committee 3793 - c3960 c3960 - 4108 4109 - 4177 4178 - 4189 4190 - 4247 4248 - 4258 4259 - 4264      
Committee Thinline c1320 - 1411 1412 - 1517 1518 - 1653    
Golden Hofner c65 - 67        
Verithin 1239 - 2240 c2240 - 3313 3314 - c4000    
Verithin 65-3 101 - c190      
Verithin 66 Florentine 1001 - 1190 1191 - 1293 1294 - 1388 ? - ? ? - ? ? - 1408 1409 - 1411  
Ambassador 50 - 177 178 - 443 444 - 468 469 - 480        
Violin Guitar       101 - 170 171 - 200          
Club 70 100 - 147 148 - 148 149 - 154      


The above information is in parts estimated (Estimates indicated by the letter “c”.). However, it should provide a reasonable basis for arriving at a shipping date within the accuracy of a few months.

2. Van Wouw (The Netherlands) Serial Numbers; 1960’s

Van Wouw Serial No. 3267

Van Wouw were Höfner’s agent in the Netherlands from the mid-1950’s through to the early 1980’s, and they stamped the headstock top edge of all their Höfner guitars with a serial number during the 50’s and 60’s. Unlike Selmer, they incorporated all Höfner models into the same series of numbers. Fully correlated records are not available now, but the following specimen numbers with dates provide a guide for approximate dating purposes.


Approx Yr.

Sample Serial Nos


1882; 1921; 2116; 2224; 2531; 3133.


3204; 3215; 3267; 3351; 3596; 3894; 3959; 4072.


4506; 4748; 5253; 5284; 5390; 5486.








3. Wm. R. Gratz Serial Numbers:  Throughout the 1960s

Wm. Gratz Serial No 21606 on a mid-1960s Hofner 4550 Archtop Body Label
Wm. Gratz Serial No 33008 on a 1966 Hofner 470 Archtop.

Wm Gratz was Hӧfner’s distributor in the USA following the Second World War until 1970 when the Multivox/Sorkin Company took over the distributorship, as well as ownership of the Höfner trade mark in the US. On some of the Gratz guitars of this period, serial numbers can be found on labels attached to the rear of the headstock. These labels tend to be white with black print, and have the words “SERIAL No.” included before the 5-digit number. A few early archtops have body labels as also shown above. These two types of labels with their numbering system were applied in the US either by Gratz themselves or possibly by one of the companies in that country that they supplied to such as Sorkin.

Examples of these allocated to years are provided below as a very approximate guide:


Approx Year

Serial No.






40000 – 60000


60000 – 80000


4. Multivox/Sorkin Serial Numbers: 1970-85

Sorkin Serial No 27026 on a Hofner 500/1 Bass Guitar.

Multivox/Sorkin, who were the exclusive Höfner distributors in the US from 1970 through to 1985, also instituted their own system of serial numbers for all instruments, including Höfner guitars and basses. Transparent adhesive labels with the serial number printed in black figures were stuck onto the rear of the headstock. Many guitars sold in the US during this period however do not have this label, and so it must be assumed that either Sorkin/Multivox were not rigorous in this practice, or that the labels became detached from the headstocks over time.

These serial numbers tend to be a maximum of five numerical digits, and examples with approximate dates are provided below:

Approx Year

Serial No.



Mid/late 1970’s







5. Swedish Model & Date Codes

Model No 457 on left side of headstock; Date No 366 on right. (March 1966)

Höfners were sold on the Swedish market by the distributor Muskantor during the 1960’s, and these were also given a degree of identification by means of stamping the model number and a date code into the top edge of the headstock. As an example “5001      1162” would indicate a 500/1 bass guitar that was logged into the Swedish distributor’s warehouse during November 1962. Obviously these markings cannot really be considered to be a serial number, as more than one instrument would have the same numbers. They do however help with the dating of a guitar with such markings.



Pot Code 340, indicating that this potentiometer was manufactured during the 34th week of 1960 (or 1970).

If one has an electric archtop from the 1950’s or 60’s, and fitted with a rectangular control console, then it should have a date-related pot code on each volume potentiometer which can easily be examined by again carefully removing the console from the body top and examining the bases of the pots. Those early guitars fitted with two rotary volume and two rotary tone controls mounted on the oval or round control consoles are much more difficult to inspect due to the need to unscrew the retaining nuts of all the potentiometers before dismantling the console. If you do decide to proceed with this type of console, then remember that you will still have to get the whole thing back together again inside the small routing in the body top! The later guitars with body mounted controls are not much easier to examine!

The pot codes were stamped into the brown fibreboard base plates of each of the volume and tone potentiometers, which were made by the German company Preh. The Preh pots were used from the mid-1950’s through to around 1973. Potentiometers on guitars made after 1973 generally do not have meaningful pot codes.

The pot codes usually have the form such as “250K 340”. The “250K”part of the code relates to the electrical resistance of the potentiometer, and has no relevance to dating. The “340” indicates that the potentiometer was manufactured on the 34th week of 1960 or 1970.  A pot code of “250K 168” would indicate a date of 16th week of 1958 or 1968.

Some pot codes only have two-digit date codes, such as say “250K 89”. That would indicate a date of the 8th week of 1959 or 1969.

Around late 1959, some codes have a “S” appended to the end of date code, such as “250K 459S” It is not known what the “S” represents, but a dating of in this case 45th week of 1959 can safely be assumed.




A handwritten body date found inside a Hofner 468 whose body was made on 30th December 1959.

In the 1950’s, the practice of writing, or in later cases stamping, a date onto the inside face of the body tops of Höfner hollow-bodied guitars was commonplace during assembly of the body. It wasn’t done on every body top however, and during the early to mid-1960s, the practice became less prevalent and then died out altogether. Therefore, if your guitar doesn’t have one, don’t worry!

In order to look for a date, use a flexi-torch for illumination and then look under the body top using a small dentist’s mirror inserted through the sound hole. Usually, the date (if there is one) is located close to the bass-side sound hole. Remember though that if you are lucky enough to find anything, that date is when the body itself was made, and not the assembly or shipping date of the whole guitar, which could be weeks, months, or even years after the body was made.



Höfner had a policy of on-going improvement with all their instruments and with the individual components of the instruments. Pickups in particular improved markedly during the late-1950s & 60s, perhaps because Walter Höfner seems to have been fascinated by all aspects of guitar electrics. Indeed, Walter designed the “Black-Bar” pickup which was the first pickup type, (together with metal-cased Fuma-made units), to be used consistently on Höfner guitars in the mid-1950’s. He then continued to oversee the development of most of the other types used on his guitars in the following two decades. In doing this, he teamed up with an electrical engineer in nearby Erlangen, called Franz Pix. Franz took over production of Walter’s Black-Bar pickup in 1958, and from then on, his workshops were closely associated with many of the pickups used on Höfner guitars and basses up until the 1990’s. Pix also assisted in the design and supply of the famous Höfner rectangular control console and active electrical circuits that Walter Höfner pioneered throughout the 1960’s.

As soon as a new pickup had been developed during the 1960’s by Walter Höfner and/or Franz Pix, this would be adopted throughout the whole range of guitars and basses of that period. There were a few exceptions to this, particularly on some of the budget archtops and thinline models, which seem to have continued to use the Type 510 (Diamond Logo) and the Type 511 (Staple) designs for a time after the majority of models had switched over to new and better pickups. This however was presumably for cost reasons and also in order to use up stocks of the old pickups.

From early in the 1970’s, a wider range of pickups began to appear, with units described as “Hi-Fi” and “Studio”. These were often offered as optional alternatives to the standard Hofner pickups on some guitar models. The Schaller Company from the near-by town of Feucht produced many of these, again fitting in with the pattern of Höfner using local suppliers.

From the mid-1970’s, the use of Höfner/Pix pickups seems to have been confined to the Hofner bass guitars, with Schaller being pre-dominant for the archtops, thinlines, and semis. However, during the 1980’s, a few non-German pickups such as DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan were used, generally speaking as options to Schaller units.

The development of the Attila Zoller  model in the early 1980’s introduced Höfner to German Shadow pickups, and these were used on a few of the later A2L archtops and the AZ models, as well as the first version of the Jazzica.

For the later post-2000 guitars, Kent Armstrong appears to have been involved with the design of the mini-humbucking pickups developed for such models as the New President and Verythin. However, as previously, Schaller actually made these pickups, and they still continue to dominate during the present day.

The following are pictures of the most common pickup units fitted by Höfner to their archtop and thinline guitars throughout the years:


·         Fuma Single Coil Pickup (1953 – 58)


·         Hofner Black Bar Pickup – Rosewood Case (1955-1958)


·   Höfner Black Bar Pickup – Plastic Case (1958-1959) - Made by Franz Pix 


·         Höfner “Toaster” Single Coil Pickup (1960-1961) – Made by Franz Pix


·         Höfner Type 510 “Diamond Logo” Single Coil Pickup (1961 – generally 1962, although this pickup did continue to be fitted to the lower price range archtops for several years after.) – Made by Franz Pix  (Note: A very small number of Type 510 units have been found to have twin coils like the Type 511 “Super” pickups below.)



·         Höfner Type 511(i) “Diamond Logo Super” Twin Coil Pickup (1962-1963) – Made by Franz Pix



·         Höfner Type 511(ii) “Staple” Twin Coil Pickup (1963- generally 1967, although some thinline guitars continued to be fitted with this pickup until the early 1970’s.) – Made by Franz Pix


·         Höfner Type 513 “Blade” Single Coil/Twin Pole Pickup (1967 – Mid 1970’s ) – Made by Franz Pix (Note: A very similar unit to this was also made by Schaller from the late 1960’s onwards.)



  Type 513 pickups with white plastic inserts were used for a short period  c1970-71.

·         Hofner Type 511(iii) Single Coil Pickup (1971 – 1980’s) – Made by Schaller



·         Hofner Type 514 “Hi-Fi” Pickup (1971- 78) – Made by Schaller



·         Hofner Type 515 “Mini-Humbucker” Twin Coil Pickup (1971- 78) – Made by Schaller



·         Hofner Type 516 “Fullsize-Humbucker” Twin Coil Pickup (c1973- 1980’s) – Made by Schaller

·         Shadow-made “Attila Zoller” Floating Single Coil Pickups (1982-c1995)



·         Hofner Type 514/Kent Armstrong “Diamond” Mini-Humbucking Pickups (1998 - Present Day)



·         Hofner Type 515 Full-Sized Humbucking Pickups (2005 – Present Day) – Made by Schaller





Note: These features are intended to give only general pointers to establishing a guitar’s approximate age. Höfner as a company did not always work to strict specifications, and hence there are many anomalies in the matters of detail of their products.


Approx Dates


Up to c1953

Flared top headstocks fitted to many of the archtop models.

Up to c1953

Purfling around body edges does not have side binding on some archtop models.

Up to early 1956

Body logo stamped into top of body adjacent to bridge. A decal-type logo applied on the top bass bout was then adopted from 1956 until c1963 for most archtops.

Early 1956

Separate maple pieces used for neck cantilevers instead of being integral with neck timbers.

Up to 1957

No Höfner logo on headstock, only on body. From 1957 onwards, various styles of Höfner logo appeared fairly consistently on headstocks.


Round/Oval control console on electric archtops replaced by rectangular console.

January 1960

Commencement of fitting truss rods to necks.

Between Late 1950’s & Early 60’s

Use of solid carved spruce body tops for higher-grade archtops abandoned progressively by Höfner.

Early 1960’s

Practice of marking dates under body tops gradually abandoned.

Early 1962

Rectangular control console replaced by individual control knobs on electric guitars.


Höfner decal-type logo on body discontinued. (Note the use of these logos was also intermittent on some models up to that time.)


Previous narrow plastic pickup surrounds replaced by wide “Gibson-style” surrounds with vertical screw adjustment.

From late 1960’s

“Genuine Höfner…..” guarantee decal applied to rear of headstocks.

Late 1960’s

Nitrocellulose finishes replace by polyethylene.

Late 1960’s

Truss rod cover shape changed from triangular curved shape to a more bell-shaped profile.

Late 1990’s

Return to nitrocellulose finishes for German-made archtops.


Hofner 125th Anniversary logo on rear of headstocks.



If you have enjoyed this web-book, perhaps you may wish to consider making a small contribution towards the Vintage Hofner Website's upkeep?  





 Copyright © 2022 Steve Russell. All Rights Reserved