Like a visit to a used-record shop, our list of small-cap funds offers some intriguing, if obscure, options.



ARK Small Cap Equity fund is usually pitched to institutional investors, but is also available to retail investors via online fund supermarkets like



TD Waterhouse

. H. Giles Knight has run the fund since its 1996 inception, focusing on tech, health care and financial stocks. He trades far more than his average peer, but has beaten the category average for four-straight years.

The team running the no-load


Value Line Emerging Opportunities fund has done the same with less trading and a long menu of some 375 stocks, compared with 143 for its average peer.

Maybe the best of this list's sleepers is the no-load

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Meridian Growth fund, at which Rick Aster has called the shots since the fund's 1984 inception. He shops for companies he thinks will grow earnings at a 15% clip, but aren't too richly valued. The approach left him behind the pack during 1999's tech mania, but he tops 80% of his peers and the

S&P 500

over the past one, three, five and 10 years.

You might have heard of the

TheStreet Recommends

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Liberty Acorn fund, run by Ralph Wanger since its 1970 launch along with Charles McQuaid, who became a co-manager in 1995. Their diversified and price-sensitive approach has made the fund less volatile than its average peer, while still beating the S&P 500 and at least 80% of peers over the past one, three, five and 10 years. Two quibbles are that the fund does tend to trail tech-heavy growth funds when they have the wind at their back and that the traditionally no-load fund added a sales charge after Liberty bought the firm in 2000.

Another fund with a stumbling block for some is the

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Brown Capital Management Small Company fund, which doesn't levy a sales charge but does require a $10,000 minimum investment for non-IRA accounts.

Two no-load funds that barely missed our cut are the

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Vanguard Explorer fund and the

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Baron Growth fund.

These two are well-known to most small-cap fans. The Vanguard fund, launched in 1967, spreads its $4 billion among five different managers who use different styles to build a vastly diversified portfolio. The fund tops at least 70% of its peers and the S&P 500 over the past one, three, five and 10 years.

Ron Baron, in running his eponymous fund, looks for companies with solid management and shares that he thinks will double or triple in value over four or five years because of rising cash flows and earnings. Though he rarely invests in tech companies, he has beaten his average peer in five of the past seven years.

Click on these links to check out the other funds we dug up:

Large-cap growth funds

Mid-cap growth funds

Ian McDonald writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to, but he cannot give specific financial advice.