Höfner history

Karl Höfner was born in 1864 in Schönbach, Bohemia, which was then a part of Austria. After completing his studies with Anton Schaller in 1887, he founded his company as a luthier in Schönbach, where his high-quality instruments quickly gained popularity across Europe.

In 1919, Karl’s sons, Josef and Walter, joined the company, and exports rapidly expanded, solidifying Höfner’s reputation worldwide as a premier producer of fine-stringed instruments.

In addition to violins, cellos, and double basses, Höfner began manufacturing guitars in the 1930s, with the first models featuring curved tops and bottoms and steel strings. Following World War II, the company relocated first to Möhrendorf in Bavaria in 1948, and then to Bubenreuth, where it opened in 1950. Höfner quickly regained its place in the global market, with its product line expanding to include models like the President, Committee, and the now-famous Beatle Bass (500/1), all of which were designed and developed by Walter.

The rising popularity of rock ‘n’ roll music in the 1960s led to increased demand for Höfner guitars, which became the company’s primary export product. In addition to archtop models, Höfner began producing semi-acoustic, solid body, and various bass guitar models. Due to space constraints in Bubenreuth and increased demand, a second factory was built in Hagenau.

Höfner’s market share suffered from competition with American guitar manufacturers, leading to the closure of its English distributor, Selmer. Gerhilde Höfner, Walter’s daughter, and her husband Christian Benker ran the company from the 1970s to the 1990s, a time during which competition from Japan and China posed significant challenges for Höfner’s independence. As a result, Höfner was sold to the British company Boosey & Hawkes on January 1, 1994.

Boosey & Hawkes also owned Roderich Paesold, a bow manufacturer in Bubenreuth, which was merged with Höfner in 1995 as part of its “Instrument Division.” However, both companies remained independent in terms of production and sales. In 1997, Höfner moved from Bubenreuth to its second factory in Haguenau, which had more modern production facilities, and a new building was added.

In 2003, “Instrument Division” was sold to the British investment consortium “The Music Group” (TMG), and at the end of 2004, Höfner (as part of “Instrument Division”) was sold to Klaus Schöller and his wife Ulrike Schrimpff. Klaus, who had worked at Höfner since 1989, became General Manager, and Ulrike became Chief Financial Officer.

In 2009, Höfner opened a branch in Beijing, which it owns entirely. As one of the few companies, the Chinese government granted Höfner an export license. Instruments produced in Beijing have the equivalent quality to those produced in Germany, thanks to the constant exchange of personnel between the two locations.