Penny stocks are one way to double your money, though it's fraught with risk, but there are equally shiny opportunities trading at the other end of the price spectrum, too. I call 'em "three-digit stocks," yet if they're anything like Berkshire Hathaway, they can trade in the four-, five-, and six-digit range, too.

penny stock might not be a good buy simply because it's cheap, and a three-digit stock shouldn't scare you away just because it carries a hefty price tag. Handsome is as handsome does. Let's check in with the Motley Fool CAPS community to see which of the high-priced stocks below earn the greatest confidence from our investor-intelligence database:


CAPS Rating (out of 5)

3-Digit Price

Return on Capital, TTM

Chevron (NYSE: CVX) **** $109.66 14.5%
Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) **** $367.67 19.4%
National Western Life Insurance (Nasdaq: NWLI) **** $160.08 4.6%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; Motley Fool CAPS.

But just because these stocks are purring is no reason to jump into them blindly. Catching a tiger by the tail -- or a knife falling from on high -- can end up leaving you scratched and bleeding. That's why we recommend you use this list as a launchpad for your own research and analysis.

Highfalutin' honeys
Come on, even Cuba is going to be drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. If President Barack Obama is sincere about the U.S. becoming independent from foreign sources of fossil fuels (and we'll ignore his telling Brazil he wants us still to be their best customer), then he's going to have to prod his Interior Department to issue more than the handful of drilling permits that it's already granted.

Oil giant Chevron was one of the lucky few to get a permit to drill -- actually, it obtained the first permit for completely new exploration since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Yet the permit just issued to Statoil (NYSE: STO) (only the 10th permit issued to date) hopefully signals that the region can recover if the Obama administration allows a return to normalcy. Statoil will be bringing in a Transocean (NYSE: RIG) drillship from Egyptian waters. In the wake of the moratorium that was imposed, a lot of equipment left the Gulf and many feared that it would be difficult to get the equipment back.

CAPS All-Star Seansonfire finds Chevron's pre-eminent position in the Gulf of Mexico to be a primary reason to believe it will outperform the indexes.

Chevron corporate strategy over the last 5 years has been to move its assets upstream into Exploration and Production and away from downstream activities including refining. I think this strategy will serve them well as the price of oil will continue to creep up which will benefit those that have already put in the capital costs now at a lower real dollar value then in the future. The move away from refining will also improve reliability of profits, as refining makes money of the Crack Spread between the price of Oil and the Price of Gasoline which can vary widely and is highly seasonal, while E&P profits are more stable as you profit from the difference between the price of oil and the costs to bring oil to market.

Add your own opinion to the Chevron CAPS page and tell us if you believe this is an oil company worth drilling down into.

In exchange for what?
You might wait a long time for some stocks to get cheap by standard value criteria. Some investments like Intuitive Surgical could be cheaper than they appear. In addition to its own revolutionary surgical robotics technology, it is licensing innovation from others such as Cardica (Nasdaq: CRDC), which recently got a patent for a new surgical microcutting and stapling device.

Still, Intuitive Surgical's high price does cause investors like CAPS member buffalonate to ponder the slower earnings growth rate.

A little too pricey. Earnings growth from operations is 20% and p/e ratio is 37. They paid a much lower tax rate last quarter for some reason that I don't understand.

Even so, with more than 4,000 CAPS members weighing in on Intuitive Surgical, 95% of them believe it will outperform the broader market averages. Add Intuitive Surgical to the Fool's free portfolio tracker to see if it can keep cutting through the fog.

Triple-digit titans
Following the disaster in Japan, you'd expect Aflac (NYSE: AFL) to take a hit since it sells life insurance to about 25% of the population there. Other insurers, though, are expected to only feel a moderate impact. Although with radiation still at dangerous levels, the long-term fallout from the nuclear reactor meltdown remains a large unknown.

That's why insurers like National Western Life Insurance may be a better bet: 88% of its total direct premiums and deposits are derived from the United States. This small cap is flying under the radar of Wall Street right now, and Main Street is rather in the dark on it, too. Fewer than 100 CAPS members have rated the annuity and insurance provider.

Yet even at triple-digit levels, CAPS All-Star chk999 finds the stock cheap, though he believes it will take some time to realize its full value. Add the insurer to your watchlist and ensure your take is heard on its future by adding your thoughts to the National Western Life Insurance CAPS page.

Count to 10
These three-digit stocks might be on their way to even higher valuations. That's why it pays to start your own research in Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page.