Vice President George Bush walked through the Washington Antiques Show last night at the Shoreham Hotel and showed himself quite knowledgeable about antiques as well as the more predictable skill of crowd-pleasing. The vice president admired engravings of sailing ships and an old map of Texas, peered carefully at American and English mahogany secretaries and discussed the finer points of the antiques with the show's dealers.

"I like the Queen Anne period of furniture," he said. "Though I don't know as much as I'd like to. I thought that piece with the shell carving was Queen Anne but it's Chippendale. I should have known by its feet."

The vice president admitted he had studied a bit about antiques. "We took a course together at Yale," said his wife, Barbara. "It was popularly called "Pots and Pans."

The Bushes didn't buy anything, even though the show's focus was on Chinese export objects. The "vice residence," as someone once called it, where they live, has many Chinese objects both from the Bushes' China tour and from the collection of a former vice president, the late Nelson Rockefeller. Barbara Bush, asked if they were going to buy anything in the show, said, "I should have married a rich man -- I mean, richer."

Barbara Bush was honorary chairman of the preview, which benefited Thrift Shop Charities. "That means you don't do any work and take all the credit," she told the Chinese ambassador, Chai Zemin, of her role. The ambassador said he admired the show's Chinese objects, especially the loan exhibition, but they seemed "very young in comparison to China's history."

The Bushes saw the show with co-chairman Helen Curtin and Shirly Mersereau. Some 700 invited guests paid $75 each for the preview of the wares of the 44 dealers and a seated steak dinner. The show continues through Sunday.

The Bushes stopped to talk to, among others, former secretary of state William Rogers and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States J. William Middendorf, both of whom are regulars at the show. The vice president told Rogers a funny story, but Rogers said he wouldn't repeat it. "It was clean, but I couldn't possibly tell it to you."