The New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s had one crucial element in common: consistent excellence in their organizations and performance. That's a rare accomplishment, but if you think it could never occur in your portfolio, think again. Carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks could be your key to superstar returns.

Build the next investing dynasty
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 is our Motley Fool Income Investor service's mission.

ONEOK, for example, has returned 69% since November 2005, and it currently is rewarding investors with a 3.5% yield. Or consider AGL Resources (NYSE:ATG), which has returned 30% since March 2004, atop a current 5.1% yield. While these stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With the help of Motley Fool CAPS, we'll search for the best dividend-paying stocks around. Here are several dividend picks that have also earned high ratings from the 115,000-plus members of our CAPS community:



CAPS Rating

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)






Terra Nitrogen (NYSE:TNH)



Archer-Daniels-Midland (NYSE:ADM)



Allied Irish Banks (NYSE:AIB)



Source: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of Aug. 21.

Any one of these quality companies would add some dividend excellence to your portfolio, but I thought I'd kick off further research with a closer look at a couple of these stocks.

Scoring two ways
If "protect the downside" is your motto, then Procter & Gamble is your kind of stock. There's nothing that needs to be proven about P&G's business -- the company owns ironclad brands like Old Spice, Pepto-Bismol, Eukanuba, Gillette, Tide, CoverGirl, and Duracell. And that's just scratching the surface.

The company has a strong balance sheet, it produces gobs of cash, and it has a great history of not only paying a dividend but steadily growing it. Between 1989 and today, P&G has grown its dividend about 700% -- or about 11% per year -- and that's growth that you don't need to count on fickle Mr. Market for.

On CAPS there are nearly 4,400 members who are bullish on P&G, including All-Star BeautifulPlumage who simply said at the beginning of the year that P&G is a "solid, well-run, recession-proof company, reasonably priced with a 2% dividend return." And if that's not enough for you, that savvy ol' Mr. Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) owns almost 3.5% of the company.

And now for something completely different.
Not everyone likes the stock equivalent of plain white rice, and some investors even like a little spice in their portfolios. For those investors, we've got Terra Nitrogen. Terra Nitrogen sells fertilizer products -- primarily anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate solutions. Don't worry if you're not familiar with either, because all you really need to know when it comes to Terra Nitrogen is that all things agricultural had been going gangbusters until just recently -- and besides, who had ever heard of potash?

But recently, commodities have cooled off just a bit and Terra Nitrogen's stock has come way back from its peak. For investors of a similar mind to CAPS player Predaking -- who said that Terra's "fundamentals are stronger than ever and fears of worldwide economic slowdown unjustifiably pushed this stock lower" -- the stock is now more of a bargain. And though its cash distributions aren't set in stone the way P&G's dividend apparently is, a yield anywhere near the current 14% would be pretty tempting.

Get into the action
You can check out who else has been bullish on these stocks, 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.

Dividend stocks could help you transform your portfolio from the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins into the dependable New York Yankees. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS Foolishness:

CNOOC and Allied Irish Banks are Global Gains recommendations. ONEOK and AGL Resources are Income Investor picks. Berkshire Hathaway is an Inside Value and Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Allied Irish Banks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer is not sure why the Yanks are small-f fooling around and not just beating up on everyone this season. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is a true investing dynasty.