2007 Hofner Marketing Flyer showing Hubert Kaa with a Hofner Chancellor.

We have seen how the Hӧfner Company ”broke the mould” at the turn of the century, symbolically by moving from its traditional home at Bubenreuth into the smaller but (slightly) more modern facility at Hagenau, and practically by clearing out its old archtop models from as far back as the 1950’s and replacing them with thoroughly up-to-date models such as the Jazzica, New President, and Verythins, whilst still managing to retain the old style and ambiance of both the company and its products. It was now time to develop the archtop range.


People for the 21st Century

The year 2002 saw a young luthier join Hӧfner as Guitar Product Manager. Martin Meckbach had an impressive pedigree, having been trained at Albert & Mϋller in Aarbergen and at the Mittenwald Violin-making school. Martin immediately took over much of the development work from Klaus Schöller at Hagenau, liaising as in the past with Hӧfner’s overseas representatives, Rob Olsen and Graham.

In 2006, Klaus persuaded Graham Stockley to work on a full-time basis at Hagenau, as the new Guitar Product Manager. Graham had been Hӧfner’s “Man in the UK” ever since the mid 1990’s when he had been introduced to the brand whilst working for Boosey and Hawkes in that country. He subsequently continued distributing Hӧfner instruments in the UK and Scandanavia with The Music Group, and later in his own company jointly-owned with Clive Guthrie: GNC Music Ltd.  As previously explained, Graham had been involved together with Rob Olsen in the US in providing advice and feedback to Klaus on the development of new guitar models. Graham’s instructions were to carry on developing the guitar range, whilst Klaus got on with running the business as a whole and getting it back onto its feet.

It was soon realised however that, capable as Klaus and Graham were in running a stringed instrument business and developing new guitar models, Hӧfner’s image and marketing badly needed to be kept more up to date with a very rapidly changing world. Graham Stockley had been introduced to an IT manager and guitar enthusiast, Nick Wass, who at that time was running the Hofnerhounds internet discussion group on a voluntary basis and who had also co-written a book on Hӧfner guitars. Nick was invited over to Hagenau to meet Klaus, who initially commissioned the Hӧfner 125th Anniversary Book from Nick. In 2010, Nick and his wife Cathy were invited to also join the Company in Hagenau on a permanent basis, and to take charge of all aspects of marketing, including the building of what is now a very successful Facebook site and the revolutionising of all Hӧfner’s sales material, including what had previously been a very conservative annual sales catalogue. 


The Hӧfner Chancellor

Business acumen and marketing skills however are not the only necessary components of a successful guitar company however. The traditional craft skills are also required, and this was more than amply demonstrated by Hӧfner’s next archtop model.

In 2003, Hӧfner made the decision to produce a top-quality 17” bodied archtop. The inspiration was the old Committee model, but it was not intended to be a re-issue. Klaus and Martin were as usual joined by Graham in the UK and Rob in the US in the meetings involved in deciding on the new guitar’s specification. Being a flagship guitar, the decision was made to employ exclusively solid timbers in the guitar, something that had not been done with any other Hӧfner archtop since the pre-war Schӧnback days. However, at the time other high-end guitar makers were producing solid wood archtops but most of these were custom-made and hence very expensive. Hӧfner hoped to be more competitive in this high-end market.

Just as significant was the decision to use all-European woods. African-sourced Anigree, a variant of maple, was being used by Hӧfner at this time on many of the company’s models for cost purposes, but for the Chancellor it had to be European flamed maple!

2008 Hӧfner Chancellor in blonde finish.

The name had to be something powerful and supreme as this was the flagship, and so the name “Chancellor” was finally arrived at. It is understood that Rob Olsen in particular considered that the name would represented everything that was fundamental about the guitar to his intended customer-base in the United States. At that time of course, two very politically powerful German Chancellors were well known and respected all over the world – Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Kohl. The name Chancellor also fitted in with famous Hӧfner political names of the past, i.e. those given to the Selmer London models of President, Senator, and Congress

Experimental work was carried out with the two typical bracing patterns used for archtops; X-bracing and parallel-bracing, with two or three examples of each version being made in order to arrive at the best sounding design. The first two of these prototypes were shipped to the USA on 18th December 2003; one finished in natural blond nitrocellulose and the other in Violin Varnish. The intention was to put these on display at the January 2004 NAMM trade show in Los Angeles, where they certainly attracted some attention. Both guitars had 24-fret fingerboards, distinguishing them from all later Chancellors which from then on were given 22-frets. Quite simply, the potential US purchasers of this guitar preferred the 22 frets that they were familiar with.

Rob Olsen remembers that the Chancellor was actually quite an easy guitar to design. He had by now understood what the US market was looking for in a guitar, and such items as the solid body timbers, wooden binding, conventional hardware and electrics dropped easily into place. The ebony pickguard profile seemed to be the most problematic with much discussion taking place amongst the design working party, although the resulting rather geometrical design seems to have been well received by the pundits.

A further single Chancellor was sent to the UK distributors at the time, Bessons, in April 2004. The Chancellor then appears to have been forgotten about during the upheaval of The Music Group sell-off and subsequent management buy-out during 2004.

Within months of Klaus Schöller taking over the company, the shipping of production Chancellors began, with at least sixteen leaving the workshops during 2005 – the first year that the Chancellor actually appeared in the catalogue. Three or four of these were destined for German customers with two others being shipped to Switzerland, but the majority headed to the US, the country where the model was initially most popular.

2007 Chancellor finished in Violin Varnish.

The main specification details of the “standard” Chancellor are as follows:

Large 17” wide body with high-waisted design shape and a very open cutaway – a profile unlike any other Hӧfner archtop body.

Carved solid German spruce table with parallel bracing.

Solid European flame-maple back, with solid maple rims – again unlike any other Hӧfner archtop which traditionally have always had laminated timber back & rims.

Elongated F-holes.

Binding and multiple-purfling to body and neck edges. Binding tends to be black on violin-finish guitars, but wooden binding is also used, particularly with natural finishes and also later specials and Gold Label guitars.

 One-piece rock maple neck (nicely flamed marking) with ebony fingerboard.

Body meets the neck at the 16th fret.

Binding and multiple-purfling to body and neck edges. Binding tends to be black on violin-finish guitars, but wooden binding is also used, particularly with natural finishes and also later specials and Gold Label guitars.

22-fret ebony fingerboard.

Mother of Pearl block fretmarkers, apart from some Chancellors made after 2011 which have a totally plain fretboard.

Hӧfner “bell-flower” design to headstock.

Gold plating to hardware, other than on some specials and some Gold Label guitars.

Schaller enclosed tuners with ebony buttons, apart from some specials.

Schaller/Hӧfner Diamond Logo single humbucking floating pickup (Type 514), mounted on the end of the fingerboard.

Solid ebony pickguard with mounted volume and tone rotary controls.

Ebony-faced brass tailpiece, apart from some specials/Gold label guitars.

Initially all guitars fitted with ebony “slotted fret-wire saddle” tailpiece. Later guitars had option of either ebony or micro-adjustable steel bridges.

 Natural or Violin Varnish (Shellac) finishes available, other than some specials and Gold Label guitars.      


Production of the Chancellor remained low but steady over the years as shown on the table below:



Approx. Numbers Shipped


3 prototypes
















2009 Hӧfner Chancellor in special-order black finish.

In 2009, Hӧfner produced two Chancellors with special finishes to special order; one in solid black and the other in transparent blue. This idea seemed to gain ground with the company, and so four “Chancellor Custom” guitars were produced at Hӧfner’s own volition in late 2010/early 2011 for showing at the Frankfurt Trade Show in April 2011. As well as being finished in solid colours – black, white, green, and orange – these specials were each fitted with two pickups and conventional controls mounted directly onto the body top. Lyre tailpieces were used instead of the ebony/brass units used on the standard Chancellors, and the orange and green guitars had nickel-plated hardware instead of the usual gold plating.

Towards the end of 2012, Hӧfner introduced the “Gold Label” range of guitars and bass guitars which will be described later. A very small number of Chancellors experienced the Gold Label “treatment”, with dramatically finished examples appearing again.

2012 Hӧfner Chancellor "Gold Label" Electric Archtop Guitar in Surf Green finish.

There is even at least one Hӧfner Chancellor Thinline out there! This was definitely not intended as a standard production model, and should really be classed as a fore-runner of the “Gold Label” range. The one that the writer is aware of was finished in white with heavy black binding and a 50mm deep body. In order to complete the effect, no fret markings were applied to the black ebony fingerboard, and chrome-plating was used for the hardware, but other than that the main features of the Chancellor, i.e. all solid timbers in the 17” wide body, are still there.

At the time of writing, the Hӧfner Chancellor is only available to special order, although it does still appear in the 2015 catalogue, priced for retail at € 9,990.


The Hofner Jimmy Bruno Model

In 2004, Hӧfner began discussions, led by Rob Olsen, with the US Jazz player Jimmy Bruno regarding yet another endorsement guitar. The idea was to produce a limited issue run of 50 guitars to Jimmy’s required specification. Initially, Jimmy tried a Jazzica and a New President, but he didn’t like the deep bodies of these guitars, and so a 2½” body depth was adopted, together with Jimmy’s preferred Violin Varnish finish. Using this body depth, six prototypes were produced utilising different bracing, i.e. single tone bar, parallel and X-bracing, with and without a sustain block, and with both solid and laminated body tops. In the event, the discussions eventually broke down and Jimmy chose to adopt a Sadowsky guitar as his endorsement guitar. However, the six Hӧfner prototypes had already been made by that stage and these were all sold off in the US, some with Hӧfner Thin President labels.

2004 Hӧfner Jimmy Bruno Semi-Acoustic Guitar.

The features of the Hӧfner Jimmy Bruno model were to be:

16” wide body, with carved solid European spruce table and laminated anigree (East African Maple) rim and back. However, some of the later prototypes made have a laminated top and a sustain block, indicating that this is the way that Jimmy’s preferences were leaning at the time when discussions were discontinued.

Body depth of 2½”.

Single humbucking pickup – initially a special Jimmy Bruno/Seymour Duncan unit had been intended, but on some of the guitars made, Schaller/Hӧfner “diamond” pickups were fitted.

Single volume and tone controls fitted directly to body table.

22 Fret ebony fingerboard mounted on one-piece maple neck which met the body at the 16th fret – as for the New President model.

Small ebony pickguard and ebony topped brass tailpiece.

 Finished in violin varnish (shellac).

The Jimmy Bruno model was never referred to in the Hӧfner catalogue or price lists, although a rather attractive marketing flyer for the model was produced in the US. This is the only photo that exists in the Hӧfner Company Archive of Jimmy holding one of his short-lived signature guitars.


The Thinline President E2 takes off.

Also appearing in 2004 was another Hӧfner thinline archtop model. Whether Hӧfner had decided to run another thinline in parallel with the JB cannot be confirmed. However, it does seem more than a coincidence that the first version of the Hӧfner Thinline President appeared with the same 2½” depth body of the JB, but with the same carved body top of the now superseded Vice President It would appear that the guys at Hagenau had “jumped the gun” and that this was a convenient way to use up those JB body parts already prepared to meet the fifty-strong limited edition of that model, made in anticipation before negotiations with Jimmy ceased.

2004 Hӧfner Thinline President Electric Archtop

The first Thinline Presidents were fitted with twin body-mounted humbuckers, with the conventional four rotary controls and a three-way selector. It should be noted that the similar specified but full-depth bodied Vice President model itself was immediately discontinued with the introduction of the new Thinline. A conventional-looking pickguard and chrome-plated Lyre tailpiece was provided, together with the 24-fret rosewood fingerboard with double dot markers as on the now superseded Vice Presidents. Within months however, perhaps after all the left-over V-P necks had been used up, the Thinline President was being supplied with a 22-fret ebony fingerboard with mother of pearl block inlays, but still with the 2½” deep body.

For the 2005 catalogue, a single pickup version of the Thinline President had appeared, which to all intents and purposes was the same as the Jimmy Bruno model, with a laminated spruce body top, a single pickup, and the cut-down JB-style pickguard.

 2005 Hӧfner Thinline President.

In 2007, after what had been a period of enforced design work on the Thinline President due to the Jimmy Bruno endorsement termination and the discontinuation of the Vice President, Hӧfner seems to have settled down and finally arrived at the definitive Thinline President E2. This guitar had a much thinner body at 1¾” deep than the previous attempts, but more significantly it had a laminated spruce top and a central sustain block. Previous E2 versions had been finished in brown sunburst, but this latest version was in natural blonde which showed off the flame maple rims and back to perfection. Twin Hӧfner full-sized humbuckers were body mounted, together with conventional controls. The 22-fret ebony fingerboard was carried over from the previous version, and the option of having a Bigsby-style vibrato tailpiece was also available.

2007 Hӧfner Thinline President Semi-Acoustic Archtop

In 2009, Hӧfner took up the spraying of some examples of the archtop range with special solid colours, just as described above with the Chancellor. The Thinline President was a very suitable guitar for such treatment, and from that year onwards, a steady succession of white, black, orange, green, red, and other exotic coloured thinlines have left the Hagenau workshops.

2009 Hӧfner Thinline President in special finish.

The Thinline President still remains one of Hӧfner’s most popular models at the time of writing.


The Club Re-Issues

2007 was the 120th Year Anniversary of the founding of the Hӧfner Company. In order to commemorate this impressive milestone, it was decided that a special re-issue should be made of a particularly historic earlier model. What could be better than the old Club 40, the guitar that had been used by John Lennon and Paul McCartney back in the early days of the Beatles in Hamburg. George Harrison had owned a Club 40 even before his two Beatles colleagues, as had many more of the old UK rockers in the late 1950’s. Apart from anything else, a Club re-issue would fit in easily together with the other Beatles’ inspired Vintage Bass Re-issues already in Hӧfner’s catalogue. The 500/1 re-issues had proved to be very successful for the company since being introduced in 1994., and Höfner could see no reason why the little Club guitar shouldn’t be just as popular.

 2007 Marketing Flyer for the Hӧfner Club 40 John Lennon Ltd Edition Model.

Ironically, the reverse of what had happened back in 1965 was about to happen. Back then, Hӧfner had used up surplus Club guitar bodies by introducing the Hӧfner 500/2 Club Bass. This time, the production tooling for the Vintage 500/2 bass that had been re-introduced in 2002 would become the means of providing bodies for a guitar version!

In another strange twist of fate, Richard Harrison of Music Ground in the UK, perhaps the person most responsible for pushing Hӧfner into the production of the Vintage 500/1 bass reissues back in the early 1990’s, had also suggested that a Club 40 re-issue be produced back then. Harrison had even gone as far as commissioning Martin Harrison of Hania Guitars in the UK to make a very authentic Club 40 re-issue, which was then sent over to Bubenreuth as an example of just what could be achieved if Hӧfner would only apply themselves to the task. Unfortunately, Höfner chose not make what Richard Harrison wished to call the “Hӧfner Star Club” (after the famous night club in Hamburg), so that was the end of the matter for 10 years or so until Graham, Rob, and Klaus arrived at the same idea.

Rob Olsen dealt with much of the basic work in the US. He first enlisted the help of Andy Babiuk of Beatles Gear Book fame. Andy helped to provide details of the Club 40 purchased for John Lennon by his auntie Mimi back in August 1959 from the Hessys Music Shop in Liverpool.

The first batch of Hӧfner Club 40 “John Lennon Edition” guitars were shipped from Hagenau in November 2007. The new guitar was very closely modeled on the 1959 version of the Club 40, including its fully hollow body without sustain block, its single “black-bar” pickup, rectangular control console, and vertical headstock logo. The finish was in blonde nitro-cellulose, with a black neck. The pickup, although looking fully authentic, was however a little more sophisticated than the crude single coil/five pole-piece unit fitted to Lennon’s original guitar, as Schaller had been commissioned to make a new stacked twin-coil unit that could be played either as a single coil or as a humbucking pickup.

 2007 Hӧfner Club 40 John Lennon Ltd Edition Model.

As a final touch, John Lennon’s signature was embossed on the mock-tortoiseshell pickguard, and a special certificate of authenticity was provided with each guitar. John’s widow, Yoko Ono gave her permission in order for Hӧfner to be able to use the John Lennon name, and the guitar was finally released as a limited edition of 120 guitars.

Within months, the John Lennon Clubs had sold out, and Hӧfner were no doubt thinking that maybe Music Ground had been right after all back in the 1990’s. They could not continue producing any more than the 120 limited-edition status JL’s, so another version of Club-style guitar had to be the only answer. In July 2008 therefore, the first twin-pickup Club 50 re-issues began to leave the workshop. This guitar for the first year or two was given the samme blonde-finish as the JL, but it was fitted with two pickups and the larger twin-volume rectangular control console.

2008 Hӧfner Club 50 in blonde finish.

Later examples were finished in brown sunburst brunette, and the headstock detail was changed to the Hӧfner “bellflower” design. This guitar doesn’t appear to have had the same sales success as the JL, with less than 50 being made. Sales of the Club 50 stayed at no greater than 15 per year until it was dropped from the catalogue in 2012.

2010 Hӧfner Club 50 finished in brunette.

Perhaps the JL had already satisfied the market for German-made, and therefore comparatively expensive, Club-style guitars or maybe it was the Lennon/Beatles attraction for the single pickup Club that just wasn’t there with the two pickup version. Also, as explained above, the Dollar/Euro exchange rate had continued to climb, making Hӧfner guitars even more expensive in the US. The market requirement was definitely for a cheaper alternative for Club enthusiasts, and this was satisfied by the Chinese-made Hӧfner CT Clubs which had been introduced in 2006 as described in the last chapter. These ran in parallel with the German-made guitars, and sold in much greater numbers. After all, Walter Hӧfner had always intended the first 1950’s Club-style guitars to be budget-level instruments, and that description could certainly not be used for the German-made Clubs of the 21st Century; at least not in the biggest market place of all - America.

A few German-made special Clubs were also produced from 2008 onwards, including at least one fitted with three black-bar pickups, and also some fitted with the re-issued “Toaster” pickups from 2012.

 2012 Hӧfner Club 40 Ltd. Edition, fitted with Toaster pickup.





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