You could pick up a dozen eggs for, oh, about $5,000 at the Sheraton Inn in New Carrollton yesterday - if you shopped around.

About 50 dedicated egg artists and untold hundreds of rheas, finches, ostriches, emus and quail had joined forces to produce the sixth annual "Eggs-Ibit East," where everything that could possibly be made from an egg - jewelry cases, horse-drawn coaches, perfume bottles and even birds - had been made from an egg.

Judith Case, whose nativity scene in an ostrich egg took the overall first prize, calmly vowed not to let the triumph change her lifestyle. "I was really on cloud nine," she confessed, "but I'm back to earth again and I'm just plain old Judy now."

For Case, as for most of the participants, eggs are a passion, but not necessarily a profitable passion. "I'm a sentimal person," Case explained. "I'm keep most of my best eggs. I've never really let it pay for itself."

Ed Sims of Arlington hopes his eggs will not pay for themselves but Island School of Design. Sims won a Iland School of Design. Sims won a prize Saturday for his elaborate display of the god Bacchus, petting a leopard, inside a goose egg inside an ostrich egg.

"He can do any type of egg decorating," said Sims' father, Edwin Sims, proudly. "He doesn't specialize."

"He's smart, I'm not," added the elder Sims, who recently retired from his civilian job at the Pentagon. "I fooled the bosses long enough. I don't have to fool them anymore."

Some of the exhibitors spoke earnestly about their desire to raise egg decorating from hobby status to that of a reputable art form. "The egg has always been the symbol of life and rebirth," said Hila Krzczuk, winner of last year's first prize for an ostrich egg with the Taj Mahal inside.

"I etched on glass before I etched on eggs," saud Winifred Cunningham, a widow who used to collaborate with her husband on her etchings and decoupages (paper transfers). "We really did work together. It's quite horrible working alone."

"That's a chicken egg before you ask," she said, interrupting herself as an onlooker gazed at an odd-shaped specimen. You don't see those in the store because no one would buy them. Farmers used to throw them in the compost heap. Now they sell them to nuts like me."