Quiz time, sports fans: What did the New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have in common? (And exactly how can this help you with your portfolio?)

It wasn't just that they had some of the best individual players of the time -- Yogi Berra, Michael Jordan, and Emmitt Smith, respectively -- although that certainly helped. And it wasn't just that they were able to bring home world championship trophies on a regular basis. It was simply that their organizations and performances were consistently excellent.

Consistent excellence is rare anywhere, but imagine seeing it in your portfolio. Impossible? No way! Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Build the next investing dynasty
Finding these long-haul outperformers can help you build your fortune, as studies from investing gurus such as Jeremy Siegel have shown time and time again. Finding them for you is precisely what we do at our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

National Grid (NYSE:NGG), for example, is up 56% since August 2005, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 3.9% yield. And while the stock happens to be an Income Investor recommendation, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With that last thought in mind, I'd like to introduce you to our new community intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS. There, savvy investors help one another identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. That means whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you are welcome to strut your stuff. And, just as in professional sports, the cream inevitably rises to (and stays at) the top.

So what are the best dividend-paying stocks around, according to CAPS? Here are a few dividend picks with five-star ratings:



Penn Virginia Resource Partners (NYSE:PVR)


Ultrapar Holdings (NYSE:UGP)


Spectra Energy (NYSE:SE)


Pope Resources (NASDAQ:POPEZ)


Supertel Hospitality (NASDAQ:SPPR)


Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of June 14.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps to add your own thoughts to the system. I'll get you started with some thoughts about one company here that may be worth checking out: Spectra Energy.

Waving bye-bye to Duke
Spectra Energy is what you might call a back-door Income Investor pick. You see, back in June of 2005, its parent, Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), was tapped to become part of the Income Investor family. Since then, Duke -- which acquired Cinergy Corp. in 2005 -- has been in the process of focusing its business, and because of that, it decided to spin off its natural gas distribution business. And so we have Spectra.

As is the fate of even some of the best spin-offs, Spectra has had an inauspicious life so far as a stand-alone stock. After being spun off at $30 back in January, the stock traded as low as $23.55 before edging its way back to just higher than $26, where it trades today. For 2007, the Wall Street analysts are expecting earnings per share of $1.34, which puts Spectra's forward P/E multiple at just less than 20.

On CAPS, the stock has plenty of support. In total, it has been rated 167 times, 164 of which have been outperform ratings. CAPS All-Star TrophyHusband likes the stock because he believes that "natural gas will become more and more important as a future energy source." A number of CAPS players have made positive comments regarding Spectra's management team, and jawong1032 also notes that Spectra has some protection from the wild swings in natural gas prices since it is involved in storing and transporting the gas.

You can check out more of what others have to say about Spectra, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS. You may also want to check out a few of the other top-rated dividend payers above while you're there.

And looping back around to conclude my (very) extended sports metaphor, allow me to suggest that dividend stocks will help you turn your portfolio into the dependable New York Yankees, rather than the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS Coverage:

Love stocks that pay great dividends? Take a 30-day free trial of Motley Fool Income Investor and see all current and past picks.

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer hopes the Yanks can continue (regain?) their legendary excellence, and has his fingers crossed that the Cowboys will never get back to the top again. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is a true investing dynasty.