Picking a great stock can be extremely rewarding, regardless of whether you're first to the party. Titanium Metals, for example, has been a public company since 1996, but investors who took the plunge in 2003 when the stock was trading at around $0.50 (split-adjusted) are up, well, let's just say a whole lot.

It's a similar story with Google. Investors who bought the stock at this time last year are up just about 17%. However, those investors who boarded the Google train at the opening price of $100 during its 2004 IPO are sitting on a gain of more than 450%.

The allure of buying an IPO has faded a bit since the dot-com era, but there's still that je ne sais quoi about being in on a great stock from the ground floor. Investing in IPOs can be tricky, though, since there's typically less information available about the company. And, unless a bank outside the underwriting team decides to cover the stock, there are no analyst estimates to work from.

The Motley Fool's investing community, CAPS, is helping to make new stocks more transparent by allowing investors to share their thoughts and outlooks on recent IPOs (as well as more than 5,600 other stocks). The following is a review of some of the most recent IPOs to hit the market:

Stock

Return Since IPO

Total CAPS Ratings

CAPS Bulls

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Visa (NYSE: V)

84%

2,610

2,489

****

Intrepid Potash (NYSE: IPI)

43%

298

284

****

CardioNet (Nasdaq: BEAT)

25%

20

14

**

Hatteras Financial (NYSE: HTS)

5%

5

3

NR

American Water Works (NYSE: AWK)

(2%)

37

35

****

Sources: IPOHome, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of April 30. NR = not rated.

I highly recommend that you visit CAPS and check out what CAPS players are saying about these offerings. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about Intrepid Potash:

Potash, man, potash
It's been slim pickings lately when it comes to IPOs. With the market muddling along, most companies that want to hit the public markets are opting to sit on the sidelines and wait until the environment gets more receptive. Of course, there are those, like Visa, that have thumbed their nose at Mr. Market, but they have been few and far between.

However, for a select few sectors, now is the perfect time to sell shares on the public markets. Potash, which is probably a new vocabulary word for most people, has suddenly hit investors' radar, as the agriculture boom has put the material in the spotlight and caused the stock of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT) -- the world's largest potash producer -- to nearly triple over the past year.

For the uninitiated, potash refers to any one of a handful of potassium compounds, including potassium chloride, potassium sulfate, and potassium nitrate. The potassium content is commonly measured in units of potassium oxide. For instance, the three mentioned above range from about 60% potassium oxide down to 44%. It can be mined either through conventional physical methods or through dissolving the ore with saltwater (brine) first (known as solution mining). Potash is primarily used in the production of fertilizer, as potassium is one of the three primary nutrients required for plant growth.

Though Intrepid is a much younger company and can't claim nearly the global market share that Potash Corp can boast, Intrepid is the largest producer of the potassium-chloride variety of potash in the United States. The company's pre-IPO financials don't have much of a "wow" factor, but they, along with Mr. Market's current love affair with potash, allowed an underwriting team led by Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) to sell nearly $1 billion in new shares to the public.

The timing of the offering strikes me as particularly opportunistic, and it makes me wonder whether potash could be nearing a peak. After all, a company's goal in going public is to raise as much money as possible. Players on CAPS aren't so sure, though, and 284 out of the 298 players who have rated the stock think it will outperform the S&P. CAPS player pshea12, for instance, thinks that Intrepid will do well as the heavy demand for potash persists and the company continues to expand production:

This company is the largest producer of muriate of potash (MOP, or potassium chloride) in the U.S. And if that's not good enough they also have two development assets in Carlsbad, New Mexico -- the HB Mine and the North Mine. The HB Mine is an idled potash mine in the process of being reopened. They will commence Phase I of the project in 2008, with production beginning in 2009 and having the potential to add up to 200,000 tons of additional low-cost potash production annually by 2011.

Have some thoughts of your own? Head over to CAPS and let the community know what you think about these IPOs. While you're there, you can check out some of the thoughts that more than 100,000 CAPS members have had on the 5,600-plus stocks currently rated -- including the ones mentioned above.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy had a bad potash habit when it was younger but has since kicked it and now sticks to fly ash.