WHAT DO I hear for the Imperial Easter Egg? I have one million four from the man with the big smile on his face. He knows he's making a good deal. Is that it? Folks?

Forget spies and nuclear war. On with the auction! Picture the Nickel Man Barn, Perry Falls, New York. Each Saturday night Duffy Patterson sells boxes of old dishes there, five bucks a shot, or tin candle molds for a hundred. She's running a shoestring operation involving the whole family. But let's face it. Most of the merchandise is garbage, and her personal life could use improvement too.

It's true that Duffy is beautiful, single, and courted by the rich handsome town banker, but she wants more. She wants fireworks and romance and more than a job auctioning hand-me-downs and presiding over family squabbles.

On this particular Saturday night, lonesome and unable to sleep, Duffy goes back into the barn, opens an old trunk and finds 96 velvet boxes containing jeweled Faberg,e masterpieces. Estimated total value: $20 million. The jewels of the Imperial Court of Czarist Russia have surfaced in Perry Falls, New York.

Authors Nan & Ivan Lyons, who wrote Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe? humorously record the arrival of the country girl in the glittering world of New York auction houses.

Who will out, the hicks or the slickers? The banker wants control of the jewels, and Duffy as well. A rich New York auctioneer wants to romance Duffy and hold the auction. The family is already counting shares and getting ready to split up and leave. As for Duffy, she wants to hold the dream auction herself, in the Nickel Man Barn.

Throw in some flashbacks home when he to Czarist Russia, an international parade of eccentric collectors, a homosexual Russian, a cleric mad for the relics, and the normal Ma and Pa Saturday night patrons of the Nickel Barn. Although the book has a little too much witty dialogue in places, it builds to an energetic climax and will make an amusing movie if the family members can be made less two dimensional.

There's also an interesting twist in the plot. The professionals don't make fun of the hick here because she doesn't "appreciate" art, they laugh because she doesn't understand business. Says Charles Wyndham, New York auctioneer, "Duffy, no one buys art because it's an investment. The art we sell is too expensive to be pretty."

What do I hear for film rights?