Need advice re: Purchase of Reel to Reel

I lack any knowledge about reel to reel players. I would like to get my dad one for Christmas as he was a DJ long ago and has many recordings of his shows. I looked on E-Bay but did not have any clue as to what to get, how much to spend, etc. Any advise or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Tape width, recorded track size: stereo, mono, multi (1/4, 1/2, full), recorded speed (30, 15, 7.5 ips). That's just to match the tape of your father's shows.
Hope to not to get you more confuse. Good Luck

Don't forget 3-3/4 ips.
I had a Gundig over 22 yrs ago that had auto reversing heads and touch finger tip controls that listed for $1800. It was a beauty of fine German craftmanship. Also of course check out the Revox A77 I think the model number was.
**Most important: You must determine if the shows were recorded as 1/2 track (2 channels) or 1/4 track (4 channels). Both are stereo formats. 1/2 track tapes play (in stereo) in one direction only. 1/4 track tapes play (in stereo) in both directions. (You flip the tape over).

Richingoth is right. You must also find which speed(s) your father has his shows stored at AND you must know which tape widths were used. Hopefully you'll find his tapes are at the 3-3/4ips speed on 1/4inch tape. That way you'll have a broad range of players to select from.

If you find his shows are stored on small reels (anything below 12inch) you will again increase your selection of players.

I have many reel-to-reel players and would be willing to get a list of perferred players to you with my sources.
All vital input. Once you have figured out the format his tapes are on then you need to know the size of the reels that the tapes live on. After that -- check e-Bay and pray.

For some basic, quite good information, check out Rolf's site:

He really knows his stuff and helped me get an old Akai 4000DS going.

1. Consumer reel to reel tapes are 1/4" and recorded at 7ips hence the most available empty or used pre-recorded bobins are 1/4" with 7" diameter you can find and so you should look for 1/4" tape capable RR player/recorder. If such tape has a recording on both sides and in stereo i.e. 2ch it means that all 4 tracks are used and you should also look for the player/recorder with 4-track playback and optionally recording.

2. Professional RR equipment has a large flexibility to use tapes of different width upto 1", 1/2" and so is a number of tracks depending on the needs of the recording engineer. Professional RR machines can record and playback on 15ips speed. Wider tape, larger speed gives a possibility of wider tracks that certainly have less noise and larger freequency bandwidth than conventional consumer RR tapes. You can assume that 1" full track recorder will have the best recording quality but will also use much more tape space. Also often 1" or larger tapes are used in analogue mixers that could mix upto 8 channels that by assumption may be fed by eight full-track machines connected onto one analogue mixer. Full track recording machines are being used professionally to record one channel at a time and than further to be mixed by analogue or digital proccessors.

3. You should decide for your needs which RR machine you will need a)either consumer type with 1/4trk record/playback(two sides stereo 2ch) or professional 1/2trk (one side stereo or two sides mono record/playback). I don't think that you'll need full-track machine in that case.
Please note that if you will take 1/2trk machine you won't able to playback a 1/4trk recordings but you will gain in higher quality recordings.

Among consumer RR I'd choose among Akai the ones that capable to play 10" reels.
Among professional RR machines I'd choose Otari MX5050 that have 1/2 record/playback and optional 1/4trk head for playback only.

Another two to look for are the Revox G36 tube decks available in 1/4 track and 1/2 track. The ergonomics are old style funky but they sound heavenly. Also bear in mind that a 4 track machine like the TEAC also plays 1/4 track tapes in you select tracks 1 and 3.