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.

RPM International (NYSE:RPM), for example, is up 75% since November 2003, and it's currently rewarding investors with a 3.0% yield. Then there's Total SA (NYSE:TOT), which has returned 84% since January 2004 atop a current 2.6% yield. And while both stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, 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. Whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you're 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:



Amcol International (NYSE:ACO)


Healthcare Services Group (NASDAQ:HCSG)


Genesis Energy (AMEX:GEL)


Vector Group (NYSE:VGR)


American Software (NASDAQ:AMSWA)


Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of June 28.

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: Vector Group.

Vector is a cigarette company that owns Liggett Group, the fifth-largest cigarette manufacturer in the United States. The company focuses on the discount segment of the market; its brands include Liggett Select, Grand Prix, and USA. In addition to good old-fashioned cancer sticks, though, Vector has a subsidiary, Vector Tobacco, that develops and sells low-nicotine and nicotine-free cigarette products. Vector also has a third subsidiary that owns 50% of Douglas Elliman Realty, the largest residential brokerage company in the New York metro area.

As with its larger competitors like Altria, revenue growth at Vector has been tepid at best. The company has managed to improve its profitability in the past few years, though. After a couple of unprofitable years in 2002 and 2003, Vector has brought its operating margin back into the high teens.

On CAPS, Vector has a perfect record of 31-0 among CAPS All-Stars -- those ranked in the top 20% of all 31,000 CAPS players. Investors on CAPS love Vector's dividend and seem content with collecting the large coupon, even if the company doesn't show blazing growth.

One player, tonetown, shares: "What can I say, but the truth.'I love 'sin' stocks!' Especially when they sport [such a high dividend]!!!"

You can check out more of what others have to say about Vector, 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:

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.