"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." This old saying sums up the worst nightmare of every homeowner, every gold buyer, and every investor in today's market. Dare ye buy at the top?

Every day, MSN Money publishes a list of the market's top stocks -- the companies whose shares have just hit their highest intraday price of any time in the past 52 weeks. Every day, investors read this list and tremble -- some with greed (big mo', baby!), and others in pure, unmitigated, acrophobic terror (whatever you do, don't look down).

Over on Motley Fool CAPS, thousands of investors just like you are watching these same companies and voting their gut on whether they'll keep rising or stumble and fall. Usually, the ratings wax optimistic as stocks hit new highs -- because everyone loves a winner. But what do you make of it when some of the smartest investors out there are panning a hot stock?

You could heed them. You could ignore them. You could take the stock tickers and construct anagrams from 'em. For my money, though, the best course of action is to use the 52-week highs list as just a starting point for further research. After all, stocks can go up for many reasons, and it's up to you to decide how worthy those reasons are. But thanks to Motley Fool CAPS, now you don't have to make the decision alone.

A change of pace
You know, I'm feeling a little frisky this week, and in the mood to mix things up. Together, we've been combing the 52-week high list for a few months now. This week, let's take a step back and instead examine its cousin, the MSN "New 5-Year Highs" list. Just for kicks.

Five Years Ago Today

Currently Fetching

CAPS Rating

Nexen (NYSE:NXY)




Cameron International (NYSE:CAM)




Manitowoc (NYSE:MTW)




Atwood Oceanics (NYSE:ATW)




Ralcorp Holdings (NYSE:RAH)




Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD)




United Stationers (NASDAQ:USTR)



Not rated

Five stars = highest possible CAPS rating; one star = lowest. Companies are selected from the "New 52-Week Highs" list published on MSN Money on the Saturday following close of trading last week. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Timing the market? No. Time in the market.
If there's a better, or more laconic, argument for long-term buy-and-hold investing than the above list of seven names and their attached numbers, I'd like to see it. Five years of patient ownership, and an investor in these companies would have been treated to a pair of two-baggers, a brace of three-baggers, and one great big four-bagger -- all for sitting on his portfolio doing nothing. Wow.

Little wonder then that investors who own these stocks today -- or who merely see how well they've performed over the past half-decade -- are loath to criticize them. Reviewing the stats on CAPS, I discovered that even the most often criticized of the seven companies, Gilead Sciences, still gets the thumbs up from 95% of the CAPS investors who've rated it.

Build-a-bear, anyone?
With optimism prevailing, and hardly a criticism to be found in the CAPS pitches for any of these stocks, I'm hesitant to suggest that one of them looks "ready for the fall" this week. But that doesn't mean that you should remain silent. Do you know something that the rest of the investing universe does not? Can you build a bear case for one or more of the companies on this week's list?

If you can, then don't play the wallflower! Come on over to CAPS to tell us why you're right, and everyone else -- on Wall Street and Main Street -- is wrong. Do even a passable job of it, and you're pretty much guaranteed to be featured in the stock's "Top Bear Pitch" box.

Motley Fool CAPS: It's fun, it's free, and it just might make you famous.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 220 out of nearly 27,000 raters. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.