Some were auction buffs looking for bargain priced discards of the diplomatic community, while still others were collectors seeking unusual pieces to add to their collections.

From the person who paid $1,000 for a brass tea box with enameled panels set with garnets to the parchasers of $1 vases, the auction benefit for the International Student House, held there last Sunday, had something for everyone.

Benefit auctions are useful for tax reasons, said one bidder. "You may buy something at a benefit auction for less than its value, and the next year you can donate it, deducting its full value as a charitable donations."

Of course, many more people see auctions as a source of entertainment rather than as a business proposition. "I think auctions are a fun way to pick up some nice things," said one woman while surveying the silver and crystal objects open for bids.

A bidder for an elaborate silver lectern which eventually sold for $500 said he wanted the lectern "to put the family Bible on." Another bidder, who paid $850 for a silk Mandarin neckpiece ornamented with semi-precious stones, said that he needed some art objects to decorate his home and that the neckpiece would complement other items he has collected.

Among the useful to bizarre items auctioned off were a belly dancer (dance performance only), a real elephant foot make into an end table, a Laotion nobleman's walking stick with an engraved silver handle and a needle-sharp metal tip, a stuffed bear's head that looks like it is smiling and a pair of snowshoes for the next Washington winter.

"There were some unusual and well-executed ivory pieces displayed here," said Washington resident Francis J. Dashnaw after placing some frantic last-minute bids on a carved ivory figure and cup. Dashnaw, who collects ivory and Asian art pieces, said, "I collect as a hobby right now, but maybe when I retire, my wife and I can open an antique shop."

The belly dancer's services were purchased for a Middle Eastern dinner the International Student House is planning. And a member of the International Student House board of directors, Dr. Leonard Aries, said he bought the string of Majorca pearls for his wife's birthday.

The more than 400 items open for bids were donated by individuals prominent in international and public affairs, collectors, and friends of the International Student House.

The house, in Northwest Washington is the residence for 60 international students. It provides them with the opportunity to share their intellectual interests and cultural heritages during their studies at local colleges and universities. CAPTION: Picture 1, Visitors browse during the silent auction at International Student House; Picture 2, the silk Mandarin in collar, sold for $650 at the auction. Photos by Ellsworth Davis - The Washington Post