The single-best stock to own over the last half-century had nothing to do with technology, innovation, or breakthroughs. It was cigarette giant Altria Group, which has returned an average of 20.5% a year since the 1960s. Take tobacco, stuff it into a paper tube, repeat. That has turned $1,000 into $3.7 million in fewer than 50 years.

In a world where whispers of the next big thing command most of the attention, the painfully boring Altria -- which today makes a product nearly identical to what it made a century ago -- has been one of the greatest success stories of all time.

I think that's amazing.

And that story isn't rare. There are dozens of put-you-to-sleep companies that have achieved incredible returns over the last 30, 40, even 50 years.

Keep in mind: Past performance doesn't indicate future returns. This isn't a buy list, but rather a demonstration of how companies that make ordinary products can generate extraordinary returns.

All of these charts are in log scale to more accurately show change:

16 Painfully Boring Companies with Extraordinary Long-Term Returns from The Motley Fool.