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Were early 60s Hofner basses cheap instruments?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Pablo Fanque, Apr 10, 2009.

  1. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    Take the most famous example, Macca's Hofners.

    I am under the impression, and maybe I'm mistaken, that he bought his Hofners in the early 60s because they were affordable. Also, being left handed he wanted (needed) a symmetric body style.

    I know they carry a very high value now, assuming they are in good shape. But were early 60s model Hofners just cheap-o gear or were they considered high quality even for the time?
  2. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Well, they're made in Germany, and he bought his in Germany. I don't think they were ever considered "cheap".
  3. Kyon`


    Aug 17, 2007
    Boston, MA
    I was always under the impression too that the early hofner's were meant to lower end sort of deals. Didn't Paul say he had horrid intonation with the thing his whole life.
  4. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    He has also expressed love for his Hofners and still plays them. Maybe that's nostalgia. Maybe it's a love/hate thing.

    I think one of them got an overhaul a few years back. Not sure. I think they sounded great on record. He'd know better than me, though.
  5. Moulin


    Oct 25, 2008
    Germany / Europe
    In 1960 it was not easy to buy a Fender Bass in Germany. They were very expensive and it seem to be impossible to find a left handed.
    So he bought an German Bass, the Hofner and both getting fame. :)
  6. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    A Hoffner "violin bass" in 1961 was 30 pounds.

    A Fender Precision was probably creeping up on $200 U.S.D. arround that same time.

    Probably quite a bit more on the European market.
  7. b_carville


    Jun 26, 2008
    I know it's hard to believe now,but Hofner basses & guitars were considered budget instruments.

    After the Beatles hit the violin basses price would jump up & up until they cost a bit more than a 60's Fender.When I was a little kid I remember seeing one in a local shop(this is 1963)& it was priced at about $130.After the Beatles broke through in1964 that bass got snatched right up.It took this shop about 6 months to get two more.By then the price jumped up to $250.The shipment after that they went up another $50 & that made them cost more then a Fender.This is1960's dollars.

    Besides the Violin bass Hofner built a lot of acoustic & elecric guitars as well as basses.They usually fell in the price range of the old American made Harmony instruments another "budget"brand.Some of Hofner's stuff was pretty whacky.I remember a few players who had a solid body Hofner that was covered in patterned vinyl! I think that went for a $125 to $150 new.Some of Hofner's acoustic guitars were gorgeous.They made an elecric guitar with that vinyl too.A lot of guys who got drafted or in the service brought them back from Germany as well.

    The violin & club basses became their upscale flagship models.By 1966 they were expensive.Outside of those models & maybe a few jazz box guitars,most other Hofner's were cheaply made budget instruments(they seemed to fall apart pretty quick)that were usually not much more than $100-150.
    jd56hawk likes this.
  8. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    See. There you go.
  9. mndean


    Mar 20, 2009
    German products were inexpensive during the post-WWII period until the '70s. The best way to see that is to look at a different manufactured product - cameras. Germany dominated that market until the Japanese took over in the very late '50s. Each country dominated simply because cost of labor was cheap and manufacturing was automated as much as it could be (less so in Germany, which is one reason they lost dominance). A Hofner bass wasn't a boutique product and so it had to be sold as cheaply as possible, especially in Europe. A Fender P-bass at that time, once you factored in shipping to Europe probably went for many times the cost of the Hofner. It took a lot of gigs to be able to afford high-end equipment then.
  10. Hofner's were considered excellent quality instruments back in the early 60's. No one knew that they used violin glue to set their necks with until the mid 80's. That's when the glue started to weaken and the necks would move causing the string action to become excessive and also throw out the intonation.

    The 500/1 was a little less expensive than a Fender at the time. I can remember going to buy my first Hofner 500/1 for $235.00 including the case, while a Fender Precision was $350.00 This was around 1966-67.

    As for McCartney, he bought his in Germany where they were made, so he didn't have to pay shipping, duties, brokerage and the rest of the crap that one pays when an instrument is exported to another country for sale.

  11. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006

    By 66-67 Beatlemania was in full swing, and possibly at it's peak. I'm sure you payed a premium, and substantialy more than that same bass would have cost 5 or 6 years earlier, including all shipping duties, and brokerage, due to this fact.

    Ludwig experienced the same thing, or at least so I am told by drummer friends that were around during that time.
  12. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    From Jim Roberts' book "How The Fender Bass Changed The World", page 79...

    "One reason was money: Fender instruments were quite expensive as imports, and Paul refused to go into debt to buy one... McCarntey found the solution in an inexpensive German-made bass..." © 2001 Jim Roberts

    I recall an interview with McCartney where he said a Fender Precision was just so expensive that he couldn't even think of buying one- it was like six months' pay and the Hofner was something he could pay off in a month.
  13. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Wow, that was one heavy bass :smug:;)
  14. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009

    What is interesting is even after the Beatles were millionaires Paul kept playing the Hofner. He played it during the Apple rooftop gig.

    I know he had at least one Ric that he recorded with, but I don't think I ever heard of him playing a Fender. Money certainly wouldn't have been a limiting factor after 1964.

    Incidentally, I have a picture of George with a Fender Jazz bass while recording Abbey Road. I wonder if that was Paul's. What the hell was George doing with a bass other than messing about?
  15. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
  16. lavmonga


    Jul 27, 2007
    New York, NY
    Sounds heavy for a hollowbody...;)
  17. Pablo Fanque

    Pablo Fanque

    Apr 1, 2009
    Apparently I was ignorant. Paul used Fenders in the studio.


  18. b_carville


    Jun 26, 2008
    I payed $250 for my 1st Fender P in 1969.

    The Hofner was going for about $325 my way.

    In Europe that was probably a lot different.I used to buy used Fenders then for anywhere from $50 to $100.I'd fix them & clean them up & flip them for $150.I used to target the British bands who were passing through.They couldn't believe they could get a Fender bass that cheap.

    Wish I held on to them!
  19. lowendblues

    lowendblues Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2004
    There was an old Guitar Player interview where Paul refected back remembering George and John going into debt for their Epiphone Casinoes, and that he just couldnt do that. He instead bought the budget Hofner because at the time it made more sense.

    They were gifted Rickenbackers when they came to America by F.C. Hall. Paul was given a right handed bass for the photo shoot, but was given his lefty later at the Hotel they were staying in.
  20. And John and George played Epiphones even after the Beatles had hit it big.
    It's hard to imagine what Hofner would be like without Sir Paul's fame. I doubt that it would be the bass Icon that it is today.
    I owned one from the early 70's. Squealed like a stuck pig, but in all fairness it was my first bass and I didn't know how to control the feedback through a big Acoustic Control amp. I don't believe they're boutique instruments, now or then.

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