Ten bucks can get you far, as long as you spend it wisely.

I've been singling out attractive opportunities in low-priced stocks since my original "5 Stocks Under $10" column nine years ago, and I've seen plenty of stocks with pocket change prices generate incredible gains.

There are risks, of course. It's part of the game when digging into unloved stocks or equities that lack a following. However, a market rally can work wonders for the promising stocks toiling away in the shadows.

Let's go over my five picks from March 2009 to prove my point.

Stock

10/15/10

3/13/09

Gain

Sirius XM Radio $1.38 $0.198 597%
Bare Escentuals* $18.20 $3.66 397%
Focus Media $24.00 $5.74 318%
Geron $5.95 $4.36 36%
Ford $13.80 $2.19 530%

*Bare Escentuals was acquired for $18.20 a share earlier this year.

The average gain of 376% in just 19 months is remarkable. Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) had braced investors for the possibility of a bankruptcy filing a month earlier. Now it's a thriving media giant with five quarters of healthy subscriber growth under its belt. Ford (NYSE: F) may have been the better-positioned stateside automaker, but no one was buying cars at the time. It's a kinder climate now that even GM is ready to go public.

Let's go over this month's picks.

Elan (NYSE: ELN) -- $6.03
Is there life after Tysabri for Irish drugmaker Elan? The drug has been a hit as a treatment for people battling multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, but to be a major pharmaceuticals company, you also need a vibrant pipeline.

Despite Ireland's financial woes, Elan's a global player. Its bigger threats come in the form of clinical trials and what rival drugmakers are up to. The FDA approved the first oral multiple sclerosis drug last month, and it remains to be seen what kind of impact that will have on Tysabri and its injectable peers.

Turning to Elan's balance sheet, the company is cash rich and finally cash-flow positive. These two things are huge in an industry where biotechs are hungry for cash and fretting over the ticking clock of cash burn. Actual profitability is still a year or two away, but at least Elan can now focus on exploring new drugs and treatments.

Cal Dive (NYSE: DVR) -- $5.43
It's been a rough year to do business in the Gulf of Mexico for this marine contractor providing manned diving, pipe laying, and platform salvage services to the offshore oil industry.

After posting strong results last year, revenue has taken a blow in 2010. Cal Dive will be lucky to break even this year. Things should bounce back next year, with improvement already taking place in the latter half of this year.

Cal Dive is fetching just 10 times next year's depressed earnings. It's also trading well below book value, though an asset impairment charge is on the way.

TrustCo Bank (Nasdaq: TRST) -- $5.64
I'm not a fan of financial services, but I respect regional bankers that were able to sidestep the subprime meltdown and avoid panhandling for TARP money.

TrustCo's conservative practices may not have been fashionable during the sector's speculative bubble, but it is one of the lucky ones to have the last laugh. TrustCo's approach has resulted in a company that has consistently paid dividends since 1904. Given the lousy interest rate climate out there, shareholders will warm up to the banker's healthy 4.6% yield.

GT Solar (Nasdaq: SOLR) -- $8.95
Solar stocks are hot again, and it's not too late to get in the game. Sure, the solar darlings have raced off into the double digits and beyond, and peers left in the single digits are likely either rudderless or profitless. Thankfully, GT is neither.

Analysts see GT growing its revenue 38% for the fiscal year ending in March, with earnings growing even faster to $0.93 a share. The pros are targeting a slight slowdown in fiscal 2012, but they're usually slow to catch on to the real trend. Just three months ago, they figured that GT would be ringing up net income of only $0.65 a share this year.

SORL Auto Parts (Nasdaq: SORL) -- $8.87
It's easy to buy into the growth thesis of an auto parts specialist in China. The country's booming economy is turning bicycle-pedaling citizens into car owners, and there are plenty of companies riding shotgun in this niche.

SORL makes the cut because it's very profitable. It is fetching just 10 times this year's projected profitability and 8 times next year's target. And Wall Street has a history of underestimating SORL's earnings potential. The company has blown past analyst guesstimates in each of the past five quarters.

Five for the road
These five stocks aren't trading in the single digits by accident. If I'm right about the catalysts, though, they may not be trading in the single digits for too much longer.

Finding promising stocks while they're still cutting their baby teeth is at the heart of the Rule Breakers newsletter that I write for. You can check it out for free this month with a 30-day trial subscription. There are nearly a dozen active stock recommendations in the growth stock research service trading for less than $10 at the moment, including Elan. Check those out, and I'll be back with more on the third Monday of next month.

Elan is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders how many people know that Alexander Hamilton is the one on the $10 bill. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.