Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The Market's 10 Best Stocks Revealed

By Tim Hanson - Updated Nov 11, 2016 at 5:31PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

And how they can help you profit today.

As investors, we want the best stocks for our portfolios.

That's why I look back, at the end of each year, at the best stocks of the previous 10 years to find out what we can learn from them.

Incredibly, the market's 10 best stocks teach a clear lesson -- and it's the same lesson year after year after year.

See the best
Take a look at this year's list:



Jan. 1, 1998,
Market Cap

Hansen Natural


$16.5 million

Asta Funding


$3.1 million



$129.0 million



$1.7 billion

Comtech Telecommunications


$11.3 million

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters


$24.7 million



$23.1 million

Clean Harbors


$15.8 million

Innodata Isogen


$3.1 million



$70.0 million

Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Includes only U.S. stocks listed with verifiable stock-price histories on major exchanges.

Be the best
Hansen Natural remains the top stock. It held that honor last year, as well as the year before that.

And although the retailers from last year's list have dropped from the top 10, they've been replaced by names such as Asta Funding and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which drive home the exact same takeaway!

Buy the best
This list makes one key investing lesson explicit. If you want to buy the best stocks of the next 10 years, you need to look today at stocks that are:

  • Obscure.
  • Ignored.
  • Small.

Those were the traits of these 10 best stocks when their remarkable runs began, and it's the same lesson we see over and over again. Ten years ago, Hansen was a boutique drink maker with little more than $40 million in annual revenue. To find its products, you generally had to shop at your local natural-foods store -- if you even had one. Today, it's a nearly $1 billion-per-year business that has a distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) and sells its products nationwide through big names such as Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Kroger (NYSE:KR), and Safeway (NYSE:SWY).  

Even Apple wasn't a big name at the beginning of 1998. Although Steve Jobs had just returned to help restructure the company, it was years away from the iPod or iPhone. Most of the market had lost interest in the stock.

Big ain't the best
But look at how many Wall Street analysts search for market-beating gains in Apple today. Twenty-eight analysts cover the company, even though it's become a $140 billion behemoth.

Where were they 10 years ago?

They were covering mid- and large caps -- the stocks with enough volume and liquidity to be worth Wall Street's time. But look at how the biggest stocks at the beginning of 1998 performed over the past 10 years, including dividends:



Jan. 1, 1998,
Market Cap

General Electric


$240 billion

Unilever (NYSE:UL)


$211 billion



$179 billion



$156 billion



$151 billion

Altria (NYSE:MO)


$110 billion

Toyota (NYSE:TM)


$109 billion

Procter & Gamble


$107 billion



$102 billion

Not bad in some cases, but not nearly as good. So you don't need to play that game. Make serious money by finding stocks today that, again, are:

  • Obscure.
  • Ignored.
  • Small.

Start small in 2008
Uncovering these winners also happens to be our goal at Motley Fool Hidden Gems. Rather than track Apple, we're following the likes of Nuance Communications -- a company with voice-recognition software that has the potential to drive the next technology boom.

Yet even Nuance -- a $4.1 billion company -- is probably too big to be one of the market's 10 best a decade from now. That's why we also highlight Tiny Gems -- companies capitalized at $200 million or less.

To look at all of the small-cap stocks we recommend today, click here to try Hidden Gems free for 30 days. You may not have heard of our companies, but that's exactly the point.

This article was first published Dec. 26, 2007. It has been updated.

Tim Hanson does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Nuance Communications is a Hidden Gems pick. Apple and Costco are Stock Advisor selections. Anheuser-Busch, Tyco, and Microsoft are Inside Value picks. Unilever is an Income Investorrecommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Altria Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Altria Group, Inc.
$45.61 (0.35%) $0.16
Costco Wholesale Corporation Stock Quote
Costco Wholesale Corporation
$560.96 (0.83%) $4.64
Toyota Motor Corporation Stock Quote
Toyota Motor Corporation
$159.13 (-1.02%) $-1.64
The Kroger Co. Stock Quote
The Kroger Co.
$49.62 (2.20%) $1.07
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV Stock Quote
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV
$53.29 (-1.24%) $0.67
Unilever PLC Stock Quote
Unilever PLC
$47.35 (-0.63%) $0.30

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/19/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.