What's your No. 1 top holding? When I tell you mine, you won't believe it.

For one thing, it's no small cap. It's no story stock, either. It's a faceless corporation with a household name you'll recognize straight off.  

And this should surprise you why?
Because I've banged the table on small caps for years -- about how you could buy an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) or Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) now that they're heavily traded megabillion-dollar companies. The real money, however, was made when these companies were small.

And not entirely because their explosive growth was still ahead of them. Both investments -- and countless others, from Valero (NYSE: VLO) to Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG) -- were wickedly profitable back in the day for another reason: They weren't yet widely followed on Wall Street.

As a result, demand was light, and the "auction" market for these stocks was inefficient. Second only to their ability to ramp their revenues exponentially, I'd argue that this inefficient pricing explains why small-company stocks historically outperform all others.

Confessions of a small-cap junkie
That's why I rarely dabble in the big names. But I do make exceptions, particularly when markets get out of whack. That's how I got tangled up with my No. 1 top holding, after all. I plucked it from an out-of-favor group that was priced for bankruptcy.

I never even considered that the company would set the world on fire; only that the stock was a value. Plus, it was a marquee name I wanted to own, but never expected to get a chance to buy cheap. Which brings me to the reason I decided to write this column.

You see, I think we have a similar opportunity right now. This dawned on me when I noticed many of my dream stocks popping up alongside the usual "cigar butts" on the old-timers' lists of top value stocks -- most notably my old pal Philip Durell's Inside Value scorecard.

An "inverted Nifty Fifty"?
Sadly, I can't take credit for that quip. I swiped it from fund skipper Christopher Davis, who coined the phrase to explain how America's top companies are suddenly among the market's cheapest stocks. According to Davis, "We get this opportunity once every 10 or so years."

I'd say less often than that. There are one-off exceptions, of course. In 2003, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) got so cheap you had to buy it -- but frankly, the company had issues. Same with my No. 1 top holding back in 1991. But I don't recall seeing anything like this, ever.

Earlier, I mentioned Philip Durell's Inside Value scorecard. Suddenly, in place of the usual has-beens and out-of-favor industries, it's filled with a who's who of America's top brands and companies. And I wouldn't be surprised if they start to move.

Rescue your retirement
A while back, I rolled over a 401(k) from a past job. I considered dumping it in an index fund, but I had a better idea. I bought Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), among a handful of other names from Philip's Inside Value scorecard. I've never slept better.

Remember, I needed stocks I could buy and forget, preferably ones that paid dividends. I just needed Philip to tell me which companies were cheap (remember, I'm basically a small-cap guy). Oh, and I also re-upped on much-hated Bank of America, with its big fat 6% yield ... you guessed it, my No. 1 top holding.

Seriously, if you've ever wanted to buy America's top companies, the "inverted Nifty Fifty" is your chance. But you'd better be selective. I really think Philip can help. Especially now that you can try his complete Inside Value service free for 30 days. If you don't like it, you don't pay a penny. To find out more about this special free trial, click here.

This article was first published March 29, 2007. It has been updated.

Paul Elliott owns shares of Bank of America, Coca-Cola, and a handful of Philip Durell's Inside Value recommendations. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Bank of America is an Income Investor selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.